SpaceX Starlink satellites have been revealed to be involved in more than 1,500 close encounters in orbit every week.
The estimate of these close encounters has been pegged at around 1,600 in number. Most of these close encounters involve two Starlink satellites. Around 500 involve close encounters between a Starlink satellite and another spacecraft owned by other operators.
SpaceX Starlink Satellites Involved in 1,600 Close Encounters Weekly
The report defines a "close encounter" as a situation "when two spacecraft pass within a distance of 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) from each other."
The revelation was made by Hugh Lewis, who is the head of the Astronautics Research Group at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and considered a leading expert in space debris.
Lewis' estimates are based on the data provided by the Satellite Orbital Conjunction Reports Assessing Threatening Encounters in Space or Socrates database.
"The number of encounters picked up by the Socrates database has more than doubled and now we are in a situation where Starlink accounts for half of all encounters," according to Lewis, as quoted by the report by Space.
SpaceX Starlink Satellite Close Encounters to Increase in Number
The current number of SpaceX Starlink satellite close encounters mostly involve two Starlink satellites. Around 500 of the 1,600 weekly close encounters involve a Starlink satellite and a non-SpaceX spacecraft.
In comparison, the 250 satellites from OneWeb, a competitor of Starlink, are only involved in about 80 close encounters per week, according to Lewis.
The situation is bound to get worse once the Elon Musk-owned space company launches all 12,000 Starlink satellites part of the first generation constellation. By then, Lewis' calculations estimate that the Starlink satellites will be involved in 90% of the total of close encounters in orbit.
SpaceX's Starlink Satellites
The Starlink is SpaceX's internet satellite constellation that aims to provide internet access for most of the planet. Its first launch took place in 2018 and the most recent launch happened in June.
According to the Starlink website, "Starlink satellites are over 60 times closer to Earth than traditional satellites, resulting in lower latency and the ability to support services typically not possible with traditional satellite internet."
The Starlink internet is currently in beta in more than 10 countries. The Starlink website says that data speeds from 50 Mb/s to 150 Mb/s can be expected by users. It also admits that there can be "brief periods of no connectivity at all."
Beta users will receive what is called a Starlink Kit, which includes the Starlink itself, a Wi-Fi router, mounting tripod, cables, and power supply.
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Written by Isabella James