You’ve never seen a night sky sight quite like this.
It’s been one day since SpaceX launched its first 60 Starlink internet satellites into orbit, and skywatchers around the World have already spotted them soaring across the night sky.
SpaceX launched the satellites into an initial orbit 273 miles (440 kilometers) above Earth. They are making their way to a final orbit 342 miles (550 km) up.
It’s not every day you can see a fleet of small satellites passing overhead at the same time, but this sight won’t last.
Over the coming days the ‘train’ of objects will be making 2-3 passes each night, but they are actively manoeuvering with their ion thrusters, and will be more spread out with each pass, so the ‘train’ will probably quickly dissipate
Each Starlink satellite is equipped with Krypton ion thrusters to adjust its orbit. They’ll use those thrusters to spread apart over time.
SpaceX is building its Starlink megaconstellation to provide affordable internet access to people around the world. The spaceflight company aims to launch 12,000 satellites in all for the constellation. At least 400 satellites are needed for “minor” coverage and 800 for “moderate” coverage, Musk has said.
For comparison: There are only about 2,000 operational spacecraft in Earth orbit today. The sheer number of Starlink satellites planned by SpaceX is staggering, according to Langbroek.
“I do worry a bit what this will do to the night sky when there are thousands of them,” he told Space.com. “I wonder if SpaceX has realised how bright they are. Of course they will manoeuvre some 100 km higher, but still, they are bright.”
SpaceX isn’t alone in its pursuit of a massive fleet of communications satellites in orbit. Similar megaconstellations are being developed by companies such as OneWeb, Telesat and Amazon.