the v2 satellites equipped to reduce their luminosity but awaiting Starship

Since the launch of the first satellites star linkand now that there are several thousand in the sky, SpaceX has drawn the wrath of astronomers because of the luminosity generated by its machines placed in low orbit.

The firm has proposed solutions to reduce this discomfort which disturbs the observations but it is with the satellites v2 that it intends to significantly reduce their luminosity thanks to several techniques.

In the first versions, SpaceX tested a kind of camouflage visor reducing the brightness of the satellites but which had the disadvantage of not allowing inter-satellite laser communications, but also of constituting a kind of brake

Another attempt has been to use a non-reflecting dielectric mirror film on certain parts of the satellite, which avoids sending the received light back to Earth.

Orient the solar panels differently to limit their brightness seen from Earth (credit: SpaceX)

The V2 satellites will use several techniques around dielectric films, a specific orientation of the solar panels (to the detriment of their efficiency, estimated at a loss of 25% but which the new design can accommodate) and black paint ( for elements with complex geometry on which it is difficult to apply the dielectric film), the combination of which will make it possible to divide by 10 their luminosity observed from the Earth while allowing laser communications to be carried out.

The driver is missing

All this should therefore quickly give convincing results…on one condition: that the launchers Starship are available to place them in orbit. The satellites are indeed heavier (1.25 tons) and bulkier (7 meters long) than the previous generation and require the heavy launcher and the Falcon 9 launchers used until now.

However, Starship has still not made its maiden flight. Between the problems of availability of the Raptor engines and the wait for official approvals, the first orbital flight is not yet in the news.

As recently as June, the FAA had identified 75 steps to take before it could hope to obtain authorization from it. The reduction in the brightness of the Starlink satellites is therefore not for now, even if the efforts to try to reduce this inconvenience are welcomed, whether it is a question of degrading the operation of the satellites or of offering its black paint to other players to reduce the light impact of constellations of satellites in low orbit.