SpaceX has launched 22 more second-generation Starlink satellites into space using a Falcon 9 rocket. As the satellites were released into orbit, the rocket captured video of them, showcasing a new feature designed to prevent interference with ground-based astronomy.
To address concerns about the satellites reflecting too much sunlight and affecting astronomy images, SpaceX has upgraded its second-generation Starlink satellites with a new “dielectric mirror film.” This film scatters sunlight away from Earth, giving the satellites a mirror-like appearance in space.
The first-generation Starlink satellites had built-in “sun visors” to prevent sunlight from hitting the hardware. However, these visors caused atmospheric drag and required more fuel consumption. To replace them, SpaceX developed “RF-transparent mirror films” that mitigate sunlight reflections. The film is a Bragg mirror with multiple thin layers of plastic that reflect light internally but allow radio waves to pass through unimpeded.
In addition to the mirror film, the second-generation satellites have been coated with “Low Reflectivity Black” paint on their angled surfaces. This combination of the mirror film and paint helps absorb and redirect light away from the ground.
SpaceX currently has 4,764 Starlink satellites in orbit, with plans to launch tens of thousands more to improve the speeds and coverage of the Starlink network. Astronomers will observe whether the new anti-interference features on the second-generation satellites effectively address concerns about astronomical observations being disrupted.