Wed. Sep 27th, 2023
SpaceX Upgrades Starlink Satellites with New Mirror Film to Reduce Sunlight Reflections

SpaceX has launched 22 more second-generation Starlink satellites into orbit, providing a new glimpse of the upgraded hardware from Earth. The company has been outfitting its satellites with a new “dielectric mirror film” that is designed to scatter sunlight away from the Earth. This new feature aims to address concerns about the satellites reflecting too much sunlight and interfering with ground-based astronomy.

Previously, the first-generation Starlink satellites used built-in “sun visors” to block sunlight, but these visors created atmospheric drag and required more fuel consumption. In response, SpaceX developed “RF-transparent mirror films” to reduce sunlight reflections. The mirror film incorporates a Bragg mirror with multiple thin layers of plastic that reflect light while allowing radio waves to pass through.

Additionally, the second-generation Starlink satellites are coated with a “Low Reflectivity Black” paint on their angled surfaces. When combined with the mirror film, this coating 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 enhance the speed and coverage of its Starlink network. Astronomers will have to assess whether these new upgrades effectively minimize interference with astronomical observations.