Wed. Sep 27th, 2023
SpaceX Launches Second-Generation Starlink Satellites with Dielectric Mirror Film

SpaceX has launched 22 more second-generation Starlink satellites into space, capturing video of the hardware as it was released into orbit. The new video provides a closer look at the satellites, which feature a new “dielectric mirror film” designed to scatter sunlight and prevent interference with ground-based astronomy.

The upgrade addresses concerns about the reflection of sunlight from the Starlink satellites interfering with astronomical images. The first-generation satellites had built-in “sun visors” to prevent sunlight from hitting the hardware, but these visors created atmospheric drag and required additional fuel consumption.

To tackle this issue, SpaceX developed the “RF-transparent mirror films,” which maximize specular scatter through extensive research and iteration. The film’s core is a Bragg mirror, consisting of multiple thin layers of plastic with different refractive indices that reflect light while allowing radio waves to pass through unaffected.

In addition to the mirror film, the second-generation satellites have been coated with “Low Reflectivity Black” paint on their angled surfaces. SpaceX claims that this combination of the film and paint helps absorb and redirect light away from the ground.

While the effectiveness of these new components in preventing interference with astronomical observations is yet to be determined, SpaceX currently has 4,764 Starlink satellites in orbit. However, the company has plans to launch tens of thousands of satellites to enhance speed and coverage for its Starlink network.

The video footage provides an insight into SpaceX’s ongoing efforts to balance technological innovation with mitigating potential disruption to ground-based astronomy.