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HONOLULU-SpaceX states that it is committed to operating with the community of astronomy in addressing the brightness of Starlink satellites. However, several astronomers remained alarmed about the harmful impact that the system and other mega-constellations would have on their ground.
One of 60 satellites of Starlink in the recent January 6, Starlink launch featured an investigational coating envisioned to reduce its brightness. SpaceX stated that it would find out in coming weeks how suitable those coatings work, and learn any impacts they have on the satellite performance itself, before determining the way to move forward.
Patricia Cooper, who is the vice president of the satellite government affairs for the SpaceX, stated their level of brightness as well as visibility came to them as a surprise. He said that during a January 8 distinct session on the Megaconstellation effects topic on astronomy through the 235th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) here. The president of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, also stated in the previous month that the brightness of the satellites surprised SpaceX.
Cooper stated that brightness exaggerated by various issues. The Starlink satellites firstly look bright after their release in a low parking orbit, and configuration of every satellite’s solitary large solar collection when raising its orbit could also affect its brightness. Once in the last operating orbit of the 550 kilometers, the spaceship’s brightness reduces to the visual magnitude of almost five. This makes them visible to naked eye only in the night skies.
She confirmed that one challenge is the distinctive design of satellite made it hard to decide what exactly causes the spaceship to reflect much light. She added that it looks like we think that the surfaces produce light or reflect light through diffusion are also among the significant contributors. That resulted in the surface testing on the experimental satellite, dubbed “DarkSat,” by several people to lessen the reflectivity.
Meanwhile, DarkSat is currently in orbit; it would take some time to find out how effective it is. Patrick Seitzer, who is an astronomer at University of Michigan and is studying the impacts of satellite constellations on the optical astronomy, stated at a later press conference, which the satellite probably would not reach the operational orbit until late when the serious measurements commence.
Cooper confirmed that SpaceX would operate faster in reducing brightness of its satellites. However, he did not give a specific timetable.