SpaceX is committed to reducing light pollution in the night sky caused by its Starlink satellites. The company has developed in-house technology solutions and methods that can have a significant positive impact if adopted by all satellite operators.
Currently, there are more than 4,600 satellites from various operators orbiting the Earth. This has become a concern for astronomers, as these satellites contribute to light pollution in the night sky. SpaceX aims to mitigate this issue and make the night sky more enjoyable for everyone.
To achieve this, SpaceX has implemented innovative technology solutions and techniques. The company has developed dielectric mirrors and used extremely dark black paint on angled surfaces and areas that don’t adhere well to mirrors. These measures help absorb and redirect light away from the ground. SpaceX invites other satellite operators to adopt these proposed measures as well.
Satellites become visible from Earth at night when they are illuminated by the Sun and scatter light towards Earth observers. Typically, satellites are visible during the first few hours of the night and before dawn when they are just over the dark side of the terminator. SpaceX’s latest generation of Starlink satellites have special dielectric mirrors installed to reduce visibility by minimizing scattered light. They have also painted the back and front panels with dark colors to prevent light from passing through.
Furthermore, the new satellites are equipped with the ability to detect the moment of crossing the terminator and fold their solar modules upward, making the front part less visible from Earth. This maneuver results in a 25% reduction in available power for the satellite. Despite this, SpaceX specifically designed the second-generation satellite to accommodate this power reduction to minimize brightness.
While some visibility may still occur during specific stages of flight, SpaceX is actively working with astronomers to make further improvements. By collaborating with the astronomy community and implementing these technology solutions, SpaceX is taking unprecedented steps to reduce light pollution from its Starlink satellites and protect the night sky for everyone to enjoy.