ISU MSS 2024

SpaceX to De-orbit Early-Version 1 Starlink satellites

SpaceX Starlink satellites
60 Starlink satellites stacked for launch. Credit: SpaceX

Ibadan, 14 February 2024. – SpaceX has issued a commitment to space sustainability, pledging to perform controlled descents of approximately 100 additional early-version 1 Starlink satellites in the coming weeks and months. With space sustainability in mind, SpaceX has to-date initiated controlled deorbits on 406 satellites out of the nearly 6000 Starlink satellites launched. Of those, 17 are currently non-maneuverable, passively decaying, but well-tracked to help mitigate collision risk with other active satellites. The other 95% of satellites the Starlink team initiated controlled descent for have already de-orbited.

The 100 Starlink satellites that will de-orbit are currently maneuverable and serving users effectively. However, the Starlink team identified a common issue in this small population of satellites that could increase the probability of failure in the future. As a result, the satellites will follow a safe, circular, and controlled lowering operation that should take approximately six months for most of the vehicles. Furthermore, the deorbiting satellites will maintain maneuverability and collision avoidance capabilities during the descent. Additionally, these satellites will take maneuver responsibility for any high-risk conjunctions consistent with space safety and sustainability best practices.

SpaceX has also committed to sharing high-fidelity future positions and uncertainty prediction information multiple times a day with other operators and launch providers as it lowers and deorbits its satellites. The launch company also encourages all satellite operators to proactively publish information on their satellites’ future positions and uncertainties as quickly as possible after orbital insertion, including pre-launch information for which orbits the satellites will be deployed into and throughout their service lifetime.

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