Starlink V2 Mini stacked. Credits: SpaceX

SpaceX Starts Controlled Deorbit for 100 Older Starlink Satellites

SpaceX initiates controlled descent for older V1 Starlink satellites, citing potential design flaws, ensuring continued service quality

SpaceX started a controlled descent for approximately 100 of its earlier-version 1 Starlink satellites, ultimately leading to deorbit, citing concerns over a design flaw that could potentially lead to operational failures.

Starlink V2 Mini stacked. Credits: SpaceX
Starlink V2 Mini stacked before being incapsulated inside the Falcon 9 fairings. Credits: SpaceX

These particular satellites, while currently operational and serving users effectively, have been flagged by the Starlink team due to a common issue identified within this subset of the satellite population, raising concerns about potential future failures.


The deorbiting process

“These satellites are currently maneuverable and serving users effectively, but the Starlink team identified a common issue in this small population of satellites that could increase the probability of failure in the future,” said SpaceX in a statement.

However, specific details regarding the nature of this issue or the precise satellites affected were not disclosed by SpaceX.

The process of deorbiting these satellites will involve a gradual descent over approximately six months, during which time all satellites will retain their maneuverability and collision avoidance capabilities. Assuring its customers, SpaceX affirmed that the removal of the older satellites will not impact the quality of Starlink broadband services.

“SpaceX will continue to share high-fidelity future position and uncertainty prediction information, multiple times a day, with other operators and launch providers.”

The new Starlink production facility in Texas
The new Starlink production facility in Texas. Credits: SpaceX

The company also highlighted in the update its production capacity, boasting the ability to manufacture up to 55 satellites per week and launch over 200 satellites monthly, enabling continuous system improvement and resilience enhancement.


For a safest space environment

Maintaining an impressive fleet of Starlink satellites, SpaceX currently has more than 5,400 satellites orbiting out of a total of more than 5,800 launched.

The oldest among these satellites, originating from the initial batches of version 1 satellites launched between 2019 and 2020. Out of the 420 satellites from this initial batch, 337 remain operational in orbit.

The exponential growth of the Starlink constellation, currently the largest in orbit, has sparked discussions surrounding space traffic management and sustainability since its first launches.

SpaceX is currently the sole owner of a satellite constellation adopting a 5-year deorbiting limit for non-operational satellites, a timeframe many seek to internationally regulate. The aim is to mitigate space debris, averting potential disastrous orbital collisions.

“While this proactive approach comes at the cost of losing satellites that are serving users effectively, we believe it is the right thing to do to keep space safe and sustainable—SpaceX encourages all satellite owners and operators to safely de-orbit satellites before they become non-maneuverable,” added SpaceX in the statement.


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Edoardo Giammarino

Edoardo Giammarino

Co-Founder & CEO. Drummer and Red Cross Volunteer, born in 1997. I like analog photography and videomaking. Firmly music-addicted.

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