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[Slashdot] - About 3% of Starlink Satellites Have Failed So Far

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According to Phys.Org, about 3% of SpaceX's Starlink satellites "have proven to be unresponsive and are no longer maneuvering in orbit, which could prove hazardous to other satellites and spacecraft in orbit." From the report: In order to prevent collisions in orbit, SpaceX equips its satellites with krypton Hall-effect thrusters (ion engines) to raise their orbit, maneuver in space and deorbit at the end of their lives. However, according to two recent notices SpaceX issued to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the summer (mid-May and late June), several of their satellites have lost maneuvering capability since they were deployed. Unfortunately, the company did not provide enough information to indicate which of their satellites were affected. For this reason, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and the Chandra X-ray Center presented his own analysis of the satellites' orbital behavior to suggest which satellites have failed. The analysis was posted on McDowell's website (Jonathan's Space Report), where he combined SpaceX's own data with U.S. government sources. From this, he determined that about 3% of satellites in the constellation have failed because they are no longer responding to commands. Naturally, some level of attrition is inevitable, and 3% is relatively low as failure rates go. But every satellite that is incapable of maneuvering due to problems with its communications or its propulsion system creates a collision hazard for other satellites and spacecraft. As McDowell told Business Insider: "I would say their failure rate is not egregious. It's not worse than anybody else's failure rates. The concern is that even a normal failure rate in such a huge constellation is going to end up with a lot of bad space junk."

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