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SpaceX satellites tumble out of orbit

Beach spectators watch a SpaceX rocket blast off at the Kennedy Space Center carrying Starlink internet satellites on Feb. 3 in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Associated Press/Photo by Tim Shortt/Florida Today

SpaceX satellites tumble out of orbit

As many as 40 out of 49 small satellites that SpaceX launched into orbit last week have either reentered the atmosphere and burned up or are on the verge of doing so. Officials said a geomagnetic storm caused by solar flares doomed the satellites after it sent streams of plasma from the sun hurtling into space. SpaceX described the lost satellites as a “unique situation.”

Do the falling satellites pose any risks? The company said there is no danger from these newly falling satellites, either in orbit or on the ground, since most will be incinerated completely or significantly upon reentry into the atmosphere. The satellites were launched from the Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 3, but atmospheric drag caused by the geomagnetic storm prevented more than 80 percent from reaching their intended destination—an orbit 130 miles above Earth. SpaceX still has close to 2,000 Starlink satellites orbiting Earth to provide internet service to remote corners of the world. Elon Musk, who founded the company in 2002, envisions a constellation of thousands more satellites to increase internet service.

Dig deeper: Read John Dawson’s report in Beginnings on SpaceX’s race to become a private alternative to national spaceflight programs.

—WORLD has updated this article to correct the year in which Elon Musk founded SpaceX.

Kent Covington

Kent is a reporter and news anchor for WORLD Radio. He spent nearly two decades in Christian and news/talk radio before joining WORLD in 2012. He resides in Atlanta, Ga.


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