By Andrew Atkinson
SpaceX satellites shot across the sky on Sunday night (December 29) in the UK – that led to panic in areas, including Greater Manchester and Preston.
“I thought the aliens were coming,” said Peter Smith from Preston.
“SpaceX have just sent multiple satellites into orbit haven’t they?,” said John Whittle from Preston.
In Greater Manchester people reported seeing an ‘eerie’ long line of moving stars – about 50 – equally spaced apart.
Another said: “Multiple space stations in line across the sky – very surreal.”
As we enter in 2020 more and more Starlink satellites are being constructed by American company SpaceX to provide satellite Internet access.
The constellation will consist of thousands of mass-produced small satellites working in combination with ground transceiver.
SpaceX satellites are to be used for military, scientific and exploratory purposes.
As of November 2019, SpaceX has deployed 122 satellites, with a schedule to deploy 60 more per Falcon 9 launch, with launches fortnighly after late 2019.
In total, nearly 12,000 satellites will be deployed by the mid-2020s, with a possible later extension to 42,000.
The initial 12,000 satellites are planned to orbit in three orbital shells: first placing approximately 1,600 in a 550-kilometer (340 mi)-altitude shell.
2,800 Ku- and Ka-band spectrum satellites at 1,150 km (710 mi); 7,500 V-band satellites at 340 km (210 mi).
Concerns have been raised about the long term danger of ‘space junk’ resulting from placing thousands of satellites in orbits above 1,000 kilometres (620 mi).
Concerns are flagged-up that it could have an impact on Astronomy, something that SpaceX are reportedly attempting to solve potential issues.
The total cost of the decade-long project to design, build and deploy the constellation was estimated by SpaceX in May 2018 to be about US$10 billion.
Initial Prototype test-flight satellites launched were followed up in February 2018. A second set of test satellites and the first large deployment of a piece of the constellation occurred on in May 2019 (UTC) when the first 60 operational satellites were launched.
The SpaceX satellite development facility in Redmond, Washington, houses the Starlink research, development, manufacturing and on-orbit control operations.