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SpaceX launches third batch of Starlink satellites

SpaceX on Jan 6 launched its third batch of 60 mini-satellites into orbit, a part of its plans to construct a large constellation of hundreds of spacecraft that can kind a world broadband Web system.

The cluster of 60 satellites separated efficiently from a Falcon 9 rocket above the ocean between Australia and Antarctica an hour after its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 9:19pm (10:19am on Jan 7, Malaysia time).

The satellite tv for pc deployment, which was filmed dwell by a digicam onboard the rocket, brings the whole variety of satellites which might be a part of the US firm’s Starlink community to simply beneath 180.

However that determine may at some point whole 42,000, leading to much more crowded skies, which has raised issues amongst astronomers that they could at some point threaten our view of the cosmos.

To place that into context, there are presently round 2,100 energetic satellites orbiting our planet, based on the Satellite tv for pc Trade Affiliation.

The launch was broadcast dwell by SpaceX, an organization created by tycoon Elon Musk, who can also be chief govt of Tesla.

SpaceX’s aim is to regulate an enormous share of the longer term Web market from area. A number of rivals have the identical ambition, together with London-based startup OneWeb and big US retailer Amazon, whose Challenge Kuiper is way much less superior.

Musk hopes finally to regulate three to 5 p.c of the worldwide Web market – a share valued at US$30bil (RM122.79bil) a 12 months, or 10 instances what SpaceX is incomes from its area launches, and plough the income again into rocket and spaceship improvement.

SpaceX’s boss additionally entertains a long-time dream of colonizing Mars.

Astronomy issues

His California-based firm has up to now acquired US authorization to launch 12,000 satellites in a number of completely different orbits, and it has utilized to launch as many as 30,000 extra.

SpaceX says its satellite tv for pc constellation might be operational for Canada and the northern United States by subsequent 12 months.

Astronomers say the proliferation of the brilliant metallic satellites may severely degrade the night time view, interfering with each optical and radio astronomy.

However SpaceX argues it has taken steps to cut back the satellites’ reflectivity and is testing an experimental darkening therapy on one of many satellites.

Laura Forczyk, an area analyst, mentioned the measures’ effectiveness was nonetheless unsure.

“SpaceX has not but eased the minds of astronomers involved concerning the reflectivity of their Starlink satellites,” she mentioned.

“The true check would be the days following launch when the smallsats are shut collectively and in a decrease altitude earlier than ascending to their closing orbit. Astronomers and stargazers will be capable to evaluate the brightness of this present batch of smallsats in comparison with earlier variations.”

One other criticism of extra crowded skies is it can lead to costly collisions between satellites, probably creating hundreds of items of latest area junk.

SpaceX says it has a plan for that, too: its Starlink satellites deploy at an altitude of 290km after which have interaction their ion thrusters to achieve an orbit of 550km.

On the finish of their life-cycles, the satellites will use their propulsion techniques to de-orbit over the course of some months – or if these fail, they’ll expend naturally within the ambiance in beneath 5 years, in comparison with the hundreds of years required at greater altitudes. – AFP Relaxnews

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