The next launch by Elon Musk's SpaceX will try to keep Starlink's satellites from blocking the stars

The next launch by Elon Musk's SpaceX will try to keep Starlink's satellites from blocking the stars
SpaceX launch of Starlink satellites on 23 November 2019SpaceX

  • SpaceX’s third Starlink mission and the first launch of 2020 is scheduled to take off from Cape Canaveral on 6 January.
  • The Starlink ‘satellite constellation’ has faced heavy criticism for blocking the view of outer space by with its brightness.
  • One of the satellites in the next batch of Starlink’s mission will experiment with a non-reflective coating to keep the satellites from getting in the way of astronomical studies.
Elon Musk’s Space X has an ambitious plan to provide low-cost internet to the entire world — but not everyone is celebrating. However, Musk has a plan to win them over will the third launch of Starlink satellites today.

Astronomers and scientists have often criticised the ‘satellite constellation’ for being too bright. When the first set of 60 satellites streaked through the sky, the results ‘ satellite train’ rang fears of man-made lights outnumbering the stars in the sky — lights that will hamper the view of on-ground telescopes trying to see into the far reaches of the universe.

"What caught everybody off guard was just how bright the initial launch was. It was pretty dramatic," said Jeffrey Hall, the director of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The next launch by Elon Musk's SpaceX will try to keep Starlink's satellites from blocking the stars
View of Earth from Starlink 'satellite train'SpaceX

One of the planned 60 satellites that will take off with be experimenting with non-reflective coating along the bottom. The hope is, if successful, the coating will be enough to allay fears of satellites getting in the way of astronomical studies.


Falcon 9 was originally scheduled to take off with the next set of Starlink satellites today but due to uncertain weather conditions, the company has delayed the launch to no earlier than 6 January.

Brighter than starlight

After the first set of satellites launches on 23 May 2019, astronomer Alex Parker said his “ heart sank” when he saw the first pictures.

Despite Musk’s assurances that satellites will have “0% impact” on the astronomical discoveries, scientists have furiously disagreed. Even after reaching their designated altitude of 550 kilometres, the satellites are visible on the edge of the horizon to the naked eye.

So, when telescopes are pointed to the sky — the satellites are “ferociously bright” according to Hall.

The Astronomical Society and SpaceX have been engaged in multiple discussions to find ways to solve the problem. Last month, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and CEO, announced that even though the country had not anticipated the problem — they were determined to correct it.

Satellites are set to crowd Earth’s orbit

Currently, the fuss is only over 60 of SpaceX’s satellites. But, the company has approval SpaceX already has the approval to launch a total of 12,000 satellites for Starlink. Furthermore. it’s also seeking permission from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to launch an additional 30,000 satellites. This will bring the total up to 42,000 internet satellites - about 5 times more spacecraft than humanity has ever flown.

The next launch by Elon Musk's SpaceX will try to keep Starlink's satellites from blocking the stars
An illustration of Starlink, a fleet or constallation of internet-providing satellites that may one day surround the worldMark Handley/University College - Business Insider

In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has already approved SpaceX’s request to operate its satellites across 72 lanes around the Earth, instead of the original 24.

Satellites in orbit around Earth currently stand at around 2,000. Even if you take inactive satellites, space junk and objects into accounts — the total cluttering of orbit still stands at around 23,000.

Satellite projects like SpaceX’s Starlink, Amazon’s Kuiper and OneWeb will multiply the congestion in Earth’s low-earth orbit (LEO) a few times over.

See also:
"Whoa it worked" — Elon Musk successfully sent the first tweet using Starlink satellite

India’s apex space agency is following Elon Musk's idea — and taking it a step forward

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have more in common than just being billionaires