SpaceX - sailing close to the space weather?
AbstractThe 3 February 2022 launch of 49 of SpaceX's Starlink satellites has
provided a fascinating example of how even modest space weather can have
significant practical and financial consequences. Enhanced atmospheric
drag associated with a minor geomagnetic storm led to the loss of the
majority of the 49 launched satellites. Although the 36th launch by
SpaceX in the past 3 years, it was the first that experienced stormy
space weather. We expect more stormy space weather as Solar Cycle 25
ramps up towards its peak expected in 2025. A subsequent Starlink launch
on 21 February used a higher initial orbit at 300km, reducing the
payload from 49 to 46 satellites, and can be considered an agile
response to the space weather losses experienced two weeks earlier.
Lessons to be learnt by the space industry and the space weather
community are discussed, including a better dialogue, nuanced
understanding of space weather risks associated with modest events, but
also an opportunity to investigate the space environment in relatively
unexplored regions such as very low and high low Earth orbits.