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SpaceX Details Plan to Actively Deorbit 100 Starlink Satellites 

By Rachel Jewett | February 13, 2024

Starlink satellites launched in 2021. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX detailed a plan on Feb. 12 to deorbit 100 Starlink satellites that are part of the early version 1 design. The satellites are currently working, but the Starlink team identified a common issue in this group of satellites that could increase the probability of failure in the future. 

SpaceX plans to conduct a controlled, propulsive deorbit, and the satellites will maintain maneuverability and collision avoidance capabilities during the descent. The operator said the satellites will follow a safe, circular, and controlled lowering operation that should take approximately six months for most of the vehicles. 

To coordinate activity with other operators, SpaceX said it will share position and prediction information about the satellites multiple times a day, and these satellites will be responsible for maneuvering if there is a risk of conjunction. 

“While this proactive approach comes at the cost of losing satellites that are serving users effectively, we believe it is the right thing to do to keep space safe and sustainable. SpaceX encourages all satellite owners and operators to safely de-orbit satellites before they become non-maneuverable,” the company said in a statement. 

SpaceX said Starlink customer service will not be impacted. 

The operator reported that to date it has initiated controlled deorbits on 406 satellites out of the nearly 6,000 Starlink satellites launched. 17 of those are currently non-maneuverable, and passively decaying while being tracked.