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Satellite tracking data shows an increase in burned Starlink satellites over the summer.
Starlink is a satellite constellation operated by the aerospace company SpaceX, and it has reportedly lost 212 satellites in the period between July 18th and September 18th, as is shown in data compiled by satellitemap.space.
The data shows the number of satellites that have burned up steadily increasing over the past three years, but there has been a significant spike starting the month of July 2023.
According to Cybernews, it is currently unclear whether these satellites were scheduled to de-orbit, or whether the burn-ups were resulted by a failure.
SpaceX started launching Starlink satellites in 2019, and since then over 5,000 have been sent into Earth’s lower orbit. The satellites are supposed to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere at the end of their life cycle (which is approximately five years) and there are currently about 4,500 that are thought to be active.
In early September, a Starlink satellite was clearly seen disintegrating over the Caribbean.
Satellites are reportedly vulnerable to electromagnetic storms with strong solar flares recorded this summer, due to the sun entering a period of heightened activity. Solar events have affected Starlink satellites before, with SpaceX losing 40 new satellites in February shortly after launch because of an electromagnetic storm.
According to Cybernews, including the rocket launch, the losses potentially cost the company about $100 million in damages.