Elon Musk says Starlink satellites have had to dodge debris from Russia's anti-satellite missile test
- Elon Musk says some of SpaceX's Starlink satellites had to dodge debris from a Russian missile test.
- Russia blew up a satellite on November 15, making new clouds of high-speed debris in Earth's orbit.
The new clouds of debris pose a threat to almost everything in Earth's orbit — including Starlink, the network of about 1,700 SpaceX internet satellites.
"We had to shift some Starlink satellite orbits to reduce probability of collision," Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002, wrote on Twitter. "Not great, but not terrible either."
Smaller debris could easily incapacitate a satellite. In that case, the satellite would slowly lose altitude until it fell through Earth's atmosphere, burning up from the friction. A collision with a larger chunk of the Russian shrapnel could make the new debris problem even worse.
"If [a satellite] gets hit by one of the bigger pieces of debris... it could completely destroy the satellite into thousands of more pieces," astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who tracks satellites and debris objects, told Insider after the missile test. "You could see debris hitting the satellites, causing more debris that then hits more satellites."
The US State Department estimates that the Russian missile test created more than 1,500 pieces of debris large enough to track from the ground. But nobody has successfully identified or tracked all the large objects yet. That could take months.
"If it's not in the catalog, SpaceX doesn't know it's there. And so they can't dodge," McDowell said.
Debris dodging will probably be a more regular necessity as SpaceX grows its satellite constellation. The Federal Communications Commission has licensed SpaceX to put 12,000 of its Starlink satellites into orbit, and the company has requested approval for another 30,000.
Marianne Guenot contributed reporting.
- A man's cancer vanished after he was injected with a weakened herpes virus in a promising clinical trial
- Airtel 5G launched in eight cities, entire country to be covered by 2024
- 'Quiet quitting' is a bad idea, experts say. Here are 6 things you can do instead to get the same results if you're looking for better work-life balance – or to lighten your workload
- India Inc's foreign commercial borrowings rise by 4.6% in August
- India emerges as the world's largest producer, consumer of sugar
- Scientists find new evidence for liquid water on Mars
- Both GST and Excise duty can be imposed on tobacco: Karnataka HC
- Godrej Consumer Products expects improved consumption in second half of this fiscal