NASA Worries SpaceX’s Second-Gen Starlink Network Poses Orbital Hazard

NASA Worries SpaceX's Second-Gen Starlink Network Poses Orbital Hazard

SpaceX’s plan to launch 30000 satellites to Starlink has been getting a lot of opposition from NASA due to concerns that the orbital network could impact the space agency’s mission.

NASA’s concerns are focused on SpaceX’s 2nd-generation Starlink network that the company requires to get FCC approval before it is able to launch satellites. On Tuesday SpaceX submitted seven-page application for the FCC detailing the dangers of the satellite network of 30,000 that causes congestion throughout the Earth’s orbit.

“NASA wants to ensure that the deployment of the Starlink Gen 2 system is conducted prudently, in a manner that supports spaceflight safety and the long-term sustainability of the space environment,” the agency said in its. CNBC was the first to announce the information.

One of the main concerns NASA has concerning the 30 satellites is the possibility that collisions with other space objects. To prevent this from happening, SpaceX has designed the satellites with an autonomous collision system that can steer to avoid collisions. The problem is that NASA has doubts about SpaceX’s claim of “zero risk” the satellites could ever trigger an orbital collision. This is especially true because other satellite constellations of a similar size are in development.

“With the potential for multiple constellations with thousands and tens of thousands of spacecraft, it is not recommended to assume propulsion systems, ground detection systems, and software are 100% reliable, or that manual operations (if any) are 100% error-free,” NASA informed the FCC.

Another issue is Starlink satellites that reflect too much sunlight. NASA warns could interfere with space telescopes’ ability to study Earth’s climate. It could also hinder ground-based telescopes from being able to detect nearby asteroids.

“With the addition of ~30,000 Starlink satellites as described in the Gen2 amendment request, NASA estimates that there would be a Starlink in every single asteroid survey image taken for planetary defense against hazardous asteroid impacts, decreasing asteroid survey effectiveness by rendering portions of images unusable,” the agency said. Astronomers have voiced the same concern.

Additionally, NASA is worried the second-generation network will hinder the ability to launch spacecraft into for the International Space Station since about 220,000 from the Starlink satellites will orbit beneath it.

But, NASA isn’t averse to SpaceX’s second generation Starlink network. Instead, NASA is calling on SpaceX to provide more proof that the satellite mega-constellation will not in the near future interfere with the activities of the space agency. For instance, NASA is recommending SpaceX provide an analysis that shows that the auto-maneuvering capability of Starlink satellites Starlink satellites are “sufficiently scalable to the entire proposed constellation size.” NASA is also asking SpaceX provide more information regarding the second-generation Starlink satellites.

NASA also mentions that it has made similar submissions to the FCC concerning other large satellite constellations. “With the increase in large constellation proposals to the FCC, NASA has concerns with the potential for a significant increase in the frequency of conjunction events and possible impacts to NASA’s science and human spaceflight missions,” the agency said.

The announcement was made at the exact time competing companies to SpaceX’s Starlink also voiced concerns regarding the network’s second-gen size. But, SpaceX is hoping that the FCC will swiftly accept its plan to create its 30,000-satellites constellation, with the aim of launch of the first satellites in the coming months.

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