NASA raises concerns about SpaceX’s second-generation Starlink network

SpaceX’s plan to send 30,000 satellites to Starlink is facing opposition from NASA over concerns that the orbital network will affect the space agency’s missions.

NASA’s concern is focused on SpaceX’s second-generation Starlink network, which the company needs to secure FCC approval before launching satellites. On Tuesday, the space agency submitted a 7-page filing to the FCC outlining the risks of 30,000 satellite networks that could lead to congested Earth orbit.

“NASA wants to ensure that Starlink Gen 2 system deployments are performed prudently, supporting spacecraft safety and the long-term sustainability of the space environment,” the agency wrote. CNBC was the first report good news.

One of NASA’s major concerns about 30,000 satellites is the risk that they will collide with other objects in space. To avoid this, SpaceX has designed satellites with an autonomous anti-collision system that can move them out of the way. However, NASA is skeptical about the company’s claim that there is “zero risk” the satellites will ever cause an orbital collision, especially since other large satellite constellations are being planned.

“With thousands and thousands of spacecraft capable of multiple constellations, it is not recommended to assume propulsion systems, ground detection systems, and software 100% reliable, or that manual operation (if any) is 100% error free,” NASA told the FCC.

Starlink satellite in orbit.

The first generation Starlink network currently operates over 1,400 active satellites. The second generation network will be much larger.

Another concern includes Starlink satellites that reflect too much sunlight, which NASA says could hinder space telescopes from viewing Earth’s climate and detect near-Earth asteroids from ground-based telescopes. can block.

“With the addition of the ~30,000 Starlink satellites described in the Gen 2 revision request, NASA estimates that every single asteroid survey image taken to protect planets against dangerous asteroid impacts will have a Starlink, by rendering portions of the images Reducing asteroid survey effectiveness is unusable,” the agency said. The astronomical community has expressed the same concern.

In addition, NASA is concerned that the second-generation network will make it harder to send spacecraft to the International Space Station because about 20,000 Starlink satellites will be orbiting beneath it.

However, the space agency is not against SpaceX’s second-gen Starlink network. Instead, NASA is asking SpaceX to submit more evidence that the satellite mega-constellation will not one day disrupt the space agency’s activities. For example, NASA is recommending SpaceX publish an analysis that shows the auto-maneuvering capability of Starlink satellites “is sufficiently scalable for the entire proposed constellation size.” The agency is also requesting SpaceX to supply more technical details on the second-generation Starlink satellites.

“This will inform an in-depth analysis of risks and impacts for NASA missions and enable a mitigation strategy,” it added.

NASA also notes that it has submitted similar comments to the FCC about other large satellite constellations. “With the increase in large constellation proposals for the FCC, NASA has concerns about a significant increase in the frequency of conjunction events and the potential implications for NASA’s science and human spaceflight missions,” the agency said.

The filing arrived on the same day that several rival companies in SpaceX’s Starlink also expressed concerns about the size of the second-generation network. However, SpaceX is hoping the FCC will quickly approve its proposal for a 30,000 satellite constellation with the goal of launching the first satellites as soon as next month.

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