From December 1, 2022 to May 21, 2023, Starlink satellites were forced to perform more than 25,000 maneuvers in a crowded orbit to avoid emergency situations.
According to data provided by SpaceX to the FCC, the company uses a “more stringent” than industry standard maneuvering threshold: Starlink satellites change course when the probability of collision exceeds 1 in 100,000 – while NASA and other companies target a probability of 1 in 10,000 .
The updated data is double Starlink’s figures for the previous reporting period, but this is not surprising as the number of satellites in orbit increases – SpaceX has recently added at least 457 vehicles to the constellation.
The company recently launched 22 more Starlink “V2 Mini” satellites into orbit and updated the Falcon 9 reusable record by launching and landing the same stage for the 16th time.
Of a total of 25,000 maneuvers, more than 1,300 were performed to avoid debris from a demonstration test of Russian anti-satellite weapons in November 2021. While about 9% of this debris remains in orbit, it is this that poses the greatest overall risk to Starlink satellites.
TechCrunch mentions a study that was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics almost immediately after SpaceX’s report that Starlink satellites produce “unintentional electromagnetic radiation” that could affect astronomical research.
The authors of the article used a very sensitive Low Frequency Array telescope, which recorded radiation from 68 Starlink satellites and it differed from the signals of other communication satellites that astronomers had already struggled with.
“Our simulations show that the larger the constellation, the stronger this effect. This makes us worry not only about existing constellations, but even more about planned ones – and also about the lack of clear regulation protecting radio astronomy bands from unintentional radiation, ”said study co-author Benjamin Winkel from the German Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.
The authors are “in close contact” with SpaceX, and the company has already made changes to the next generation of Starlink satellites to mitigate the impact of the radiation.