SpaceX says that most of the satellites it launched last week for its Starlink broadband internet constellation are doomed to fall from orbit due to a solar storm.
Based on the company’s analysis, as many as 40 of the 49 satellites — which were built at SpaceX’s facility in Redmond, Wash. — will plunge through the atmosphere and burn up. Some have already made the plunge.
“Ah, how I love the smell of burning satellites in the morning,” Marco Langbroek, a satellite consultant at Leiden University in the Netherlands, joked in a tweet.
In an update, SpaceX stressed that the falling satellites “pose zero collision risk with other satellites and by design demise upon atmospheric re-entry — meaning no orbital debris is created and no satellite parts hit the ground.”
Nevertheless, the satellite failures draw attention to the challenges raised by the rise of satellite mega-constellations, even as the Federal Communications Commission considers SpaceX’s proposal to launch nearly 30,000 second-generation Starlink satellites into new orbital configurations.