SpaceX says it will take more steps to reduce the impact of its Starlink satellite constellation on astronomy, although astronomers disagree with statements by Elon Musk that the system will have “zero” effect on their work.
SpaceX successfully launched 60 satellites for its Starlink broadband constellation March 18, but failed to recover the rocket’s first stage, marking the company’s second consecutive booster miss on a Starlink mission.
Executives from SES and Eutelsat said they are watching as SpaceX deploys its own Starlink constellation of broadband satellites, which could make SpaceX one of their competitors.
SpaceX completed its fifth dedicated Starlink launch Feb. 17, successfully sending 60 satellites into low Earth orbit while missing what would have been the company’s 50th booster recovery.
Since the first Starlink satellites launched in May, astronomers have complained that those satellites, and potentially other systems to be launched in the next few years, could make it far more difficult for astronomers to conduct observations using ground-based telescopes.
SpaceX completed its second Starlink launch of the month Jan. 29, conforming to a target cadence the company set last year to launch two dedicated Starlink missions monthly throughout 2020.
SpaceX says it’s committed to working with the astronomy community to address the brightness of its Starlink satellites, but some astronomers remain concerned about the deleterious effect that system and other megaconstellations will have on their field.
The rapid growth in Starlink missions means the 48 launch target could be attained in 2020.
SpaceX launched 60 of its own Starlink broadband satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket Jan. 6, becoming the operator of the world’s largest commercial satellite constellation.
President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said the problem caught the company by surprise
SpaceX completed its second launch of 60 Starlink satellites Nov. 11, making its own system the largest commercial telecommunications satellite constellation in orbit.
The goal is to complete six to eight Starlink launches to get sufficient coverage to start offering the service to consumers in 2020.
Shotwell: “We’re talking to the Army about Starlink and Starship."