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Elon Musk: SpaceX loses millions after storm strikes 49 satellites

·2-min read
Elon Musk looking concerned and a SpaceX launch.
Elon Musk's SpaceX has confirmed at least 40 satellites will reenter the Earth's orbit after a magnetic storm. (Source: Getty)

A geomagnetic storm has caused multi million-dollars worth of damage to Elon Musk's SpaceX satellites that were launched to orbit the earth.

Forty-nine satellites were launched on 3 February, which were intended to orbit around 210 kilometres above the earth.

But a temporary disturbance to the Earth's magnetosphere, which can be caused by a solar wind shock wave, had other plans.

“Unfortunately, the satellites deployed on Thursday [3 February] were significantly impacted by a geomagnetic storm on Friday [4 February],” the company said in a statement.

“These storms cause the atmosphere to warm and atmospheric density at our low deployment altitudes to increase.”

SpaceX confirmed that around 40 of the satellites would either reenter, or have already reentered, the Earth’s atmosphere.

“The deorbiting satellites pose zero collision risk with other satellites and by design demise upon atmospheric reentry—meaning no orbital debris is created and no satellite parts hit the ground,” SpaceX said.

“This unique situation demonstrates the great lengths the Starlink team has gone to ensure the system is on the leading edge of on-orbit debris mitigation.”

SpaceX does not divulge the actual cost of its Starlink satellites or its Falcon 9 launches – but losing the majority of the mission could result in a financial loss upward of $50 million, CNBC has reported.

Starlink is SpaceX's way forward to build an interconnected network with thousands of satellites to deliver high-speed internet anywhere on the planet.

SpaceX said that it deploys its satellites into lower than usual orbits so that if something were to go wrong the satellite will quickly be deorbited - reducing harm.

“While the low deployment altitude requires more capable satellites at a considerable cost to us, it’s the right thing to do to maintain a sustainable space environment,” the company said.

The satellites were launched as part of the company’s Starlink program, a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX providing satellite Internet access coverage to most of the Earth.

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