BlueWalker-3 Unfolds, Brightens One-Hundredfold

BlueWalker-3
An artist's impression of BlueWalker-3 unfolded in orbit. Credit: ASTSpaceMobile

After months of waiting, we’re getting our first good looks at a fully deployed BlueWalker-3.

A new high-profile satellite may now be visible in a sky over you. We recently wrote about AST Space Mobile’s new BlueWalker-3 satellite, and its potential to be among the brightest objects in the night sky. Launched on September 10th, 2022 an a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket along with the Starlink Group 4-2 batch, BlueWalker-3 is the first of the company’s planned mega-constellation of 110 BlueBird satellites set to be deployed by the end of 2024 for worldwide communication.

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Scientists in Antarctica Have Access to Starlink Now. It’s Available on 7 Continents

SpaceX’s Starlink service is now available in Antarctica, according to a tweet from the National Science Foundation on the morning of September 14, stating, “NSF-supported USAP scientists in #Antarctica are over the moon! Starlink is testing polar service with a newly deployed user terminal at McMurdo Station. Increasing bandwidth and connectivity for service support.” SpaceX replied with a quote tweet saying, “Starlink is now available on all seven continents! In such a remote location like Antarctica, this capability is enabled by Starlink’s space laser network.”

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BlueWalker-3 Satellite Launches This Weekend, May Be Bright

AST SpaceMobile
An artist's conception of BlueWalker-3 in space. Credit: AST SpaceMobile

A new satellite launching this weekend BlueWalker-3 could be conspicuously bright once it’s unfurled in orbit.

A routine SpaceX Starlink launch this coming weekend carries an unusual passenger, that you many be able to easily see gliding through the increasingly crowded night sky.

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You’ll Soon be Able to Access Starlink Directly With Your Cellphone, From Anywhere in the US, and Eventually the World

The future of satellite communications is almost upon us. SpaceX has signed a deal with T-Mobile to provide the carrier’s customers with text services from its Starlink satellites anywhere in the US starting next year. 

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With Better Communication, Astronomers and Satellites can co-Exist

SpaceX’s Starlink satellite system has been in the news lately for both good and ill. The “Mega-constellation” of around 2,800 satellites added another 53 satellites to its roster just last week. But while it might one day provide high-speed internet for the whole of humanity, it is already causing a massive headache for one particular slice of humanity – astronomers. Starlink satellites are reflective due to the solar panels they need to power themselves. 

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Starlink Satellites Are Still Bright

Starlink
An artist's conception of the Starlink constellation encircling the Earth. Credit: SpaceX

The new generation of Starlink satellites remain above the accepted brightness threshold.

It’s one of the stranger sights of the modern Space Age. Recently, we found ourselves under the relatively dark skies of southern Spain. Sure enough, within a few minutes, we caught sight of a chain of flashing ‘stars’ winking in and out of view in quick succession.

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SpaceX Shares an Image of the Super Heavy Booster Bristling With 33 Newly Installed Raptor Engines

Not long ago, SpaceX passed their Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) with the FAA, though many corrective actions were recommended. With this hurdle in its rearview mirror, SpaceX is busy preparing the Starship and Super Heavy prototypes for their orbital test flight. On Saturday (July 2nd), the company posted pictures on its Twitter feed that showed the Starship (SN24) and Super Heavy booster (BN7) outfitted with all the Raptor engines – 33 Raptors for the BN7, 6 for SN24 – that will take them to space.

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Starlink is the Only Communications Link for Some Ukrainian Towns, but the Terminals Could Also be a Target

A team of engineers from the University of Glasgow and the Ukraine have created an engine that could cut costs by "eating itself". Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to an outpouring of support and material aid from the international community. For his part, Elon Musk obliged Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov‘s request for assistance by sending free Starlink terminals to Ukraine. For some besieged communities, like the city of Mariupol, this service constitutes the only means of getting up-to-date information, communicating with family members, or sharing their stories from the front lines of the war.

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister and its Minister of Digital Transformation, thanked Musk on Twitter for the devices. However, there is also the possibility that as the fighting continues, Starlink transmissions could become beacons for Russian airstrikes. John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher with The Citizen Lab (University of Toronto), pointed out this potential danger via Twitter and even recommended strategies for how this can be avoided.

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20% of Twilight Observations Contain Satellite Passes

Starlink trails and a meteor as seen from Brazil. Credit: Egon Filter

With the rapid expansion of commercial space, there is a growing number of satellites in orbit around our planet. Most of these are in low-Earth orbit, which is becoming increasingly crowded. This has led some to be concerned about a catastrophic rise of space debris, as well as a growing frustration by astronomers due to the number of satellite sky trails.

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It’s Time to Stop Doing Anti-Satellite Tests

This image from the ESA's MASTER (Meteoroid and Space Debris Terrestrial Environment Reference) risk-assessment tool shows the dangerous debris orbiting Earth. Image Credit: IRAS/TU Braunschweig

Earlier this month, the Russian military conducted an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test, launching a PL19 Nudol interceptor missile at a now-defunct Soviet-era intelligence satellite, KOSMOS 1408. The impact obliterated the spacecraft, creating a debris field consisting of approximately 1500 pieces of trackable debris, and potentially hundreds of thousands of pieces that are too small to monitor with ground-based radar. In the aftermath of the test, the debris field crossed the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) repeatedly, causing the crew to take emergency precautions and shelter in their descent capsules, ready for a quick return to Earth in the event that the station was hit.

While the station and its crew escaped without harm this time around, the November 15 test demonstrated far too clearly that ASATs pose a real danger to human life. They can also wreak havoc on the rest of Earth’s space infrastructure, like communications satellites and other orbital systems. Debris from an ASAT test remains in orbit long after the initial incident is over (the higher the orbit, the longer lasting the debris), and if humanity’s space infrastructure is to be sustainable, the era of ASATs must come to an end, and soon.

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