SpaceX has launched 22 more second-generation Starlink satellites into space to improve its satellite internet network. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket captured video footage of the satellites floating into space. These new satellites have been upgraded with a “dielectric mirror film” to scatter sunlight away from Earth, preventing interference with ground-based astronomy.
Earlier iterations of Starlink satellites came with built-in sun visors to block sunlight, but these caused atmospheric drag and required more fuel. SpaceX developed “RF-transparent mirror films” to replace the visors. The film’s core is a Bragg mirror made up of thin layers of plastic with different refractive indices, creating interference patterns that reflect light while allowing radio waves to pass through.
In addition to the mirror film, the second-generation satellites are coated with “Low Reflectivity Black” paint on their angled surfaces. This paint combined with the film helps absorb and redirect light away from the ground, reducing the satellites’ visibility from Earth.
SpaceX currently has 4,764 Starlink satellites in orbit, according to astronomer Jonathan McDowell. However, the company plans to launch tens of thousands of satellites to enhance the speed and coverage of the Starlink network.
The effectiveness of the mirror film and paint in reducing interference with astronomical observations remains to be seen. SpaceX continues to make improvements to its satellite design to address concerns about sunlight reflection and minimize disruptions to ground-based astronomy.
By deploying these upgraded satellites, SpaceX aims to provide improved satellite internet connectivity worldwide and meet the growing demand for broadband services in remote areas.