Jonathan C. McDowell

Starlink Simulations

In 2019 SpaceX began deploying a constellation of internet relay satellites called Starlink. The satellites are relatively large (about 3m flat-panel bus with 8m solar array) and in low (300-550 km) orbits, and in their initial design are unexpectedly bright naked-eye objects. Various proposals filed with the FCC described constellations of 4000, 12000 and ultimately 30,000 satellites. Widespread optical observations of the satellites raised the concern that the fully deployed constellation would have severe impacts on astronomical observations and even on appreciation of the night sky by ordinary people around the world.

In early 2020 the various filings represented a proposed 12000 satellite constellation. I discussed the effects of such a constellation in a paper in the Astrophysical Journal Letters:

By late May 2020, however, Starlink had updated its plans - partly in response to the concerns of astronomers. On this web page I will present updated simulations.

In Oct 2022 SpaceX released an FCC filing which gave the dimensions of the proposed Generation 2 Starlinks, as well as an intermediate Gen2 to be launched on Falcon 9:
Satellite Bus Dimensions (m) Solar array size (m) Mass (kg)
V1.5 2.8 x 1.3m 2.8 x 8.1m 303
V2 Mini 4.1 x 2.7m 4.1 x 12.8m 800
V2 6.4 x 2.7m 6.4 x 20.2m 1250?
(V2 was listed as 'DAS Mass 2000 kg' in the FCC filing, but the DAS Mass is stated to be overestimated for a conservative reentry calculation).

For my analysis of the Starlink orbital history and notes on satellite failures, see Starlink statistics

Brightness reduction of VisorSats, graphic by Pat Seitzer, Apr 2021

Here is a flyer from the AAS [pdf] [jpg]