SpaceX launched the third batch of Starlink satellites as part of a project to give the company the largest commercial satellite constellation.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched, delivering the 60 satellites into orbit and bringing the total number of Starlink satellites in orbit up to 180.
According to CNN Business, SpaceX plans to complete 23 launches by the end of 2020, growing the constellation to more than 1,500 satellites.
The company’s goal is to provide affordable internet service to parts of the United States and Canada by the middle of the year, and eventually to beam cheap high-speed broadband across the world.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 7, 2020
This massive number of satellites expected to be launched into low orbit has astronomers and scientists concerned.
Many astronomers have already lamented the current satellites, making it harder for them to see the stars since the satellites solar panels reflect sunlight while on their way to their intended destination. Musk has addressed this, saying this is minimised once they reach their intended position in orbit. He also said the company is testing out designs to dim this reflection. One of the satellites launched among this third batch is testing an “experimental darkening treatment” in relation to this complaint.
Another concern is that this incredible increase in satellites might create space traffic. With an increase in the number of satellites in orbit, all of which are operated by a different organisation, comes an increased risk for collisions which would affect how technology on those satellites work here on Earth. In September 2019, a SpaceX satellite already nearly missed a European wind-monitoring satellite.
Better communication between satellite operators could be one way to avoid such accidents.
Image: SpaceX/ Twitter