We’re excited to announce that we’ve helped successfully complete a project that will ultimately provide more advanced solar weather reporting. With limited knowledge of solar disruptions, more fragile space assets, such as smallsats, can be damaged or destroyed as they unknowingly enter places where solar weather is active. As a result, SpaceX has lost dozens of satellites due to solar weather last February when a solar storm caused 38 of 49 newly launched SpaceX Starlink satellites to reenter. The extra drag was too much for the satellites’ thrusters.
According to this recent article in SpaceNews, an increase in solar activity will continue to cause the upper atmosphere to expand due to the heat put off by solar storms. This produces more density, and therefore more atmospheric drag on satellites, risking damage or disruption.
According to SpaceNews, the rise in solar activity not only coincides with a sharp increase in the number of satellites launched but also comes after the previous 11-year cycle, called Cycle 24 by space scientists, that was relatively mild. This makes many satellite operators inexperienced with the real impacts of a more active sun, and stronger solar storms.
Scientists say that a new, more vigorous solar cycle will peak around the middle of the decade. Trends are starting to show that in 2022, there was a solar flare almost every week, which was much higher than predictions forecasted. Small sats in particular are vulnerable, because they don’t always have radiation-protected components due to the fact that they’re more expensive and have a longer purchase cycle.
Satellite operators cannot ignore the increasing presence of solar storms. Their impact on the space environment will be significant, and its critical to address how your satellite will mitigate this radiation environment and the drag effects. Our team is here to help advise on the design and launch of your projects, to help you select the right components to not only pass regulations, but to withstand the increase in solar activity. Reach out to our team for more information or to see how we can help.