According to a press release, SpaceX has launched its third batch of Starlink satellites, including one with an experimental coating.
Starlink is a group of satellites, or satellite constellation, aimed at providing high-speed, broadband internet across the globe. Eventually, as many as 12,000 satellites will be deployed to provide worldwide coverage. The third batch consisted of 60 satellites, for a total of 182 to date.
There have been a number of concerns raised about the project. One of the biggest concerns is the growing problem of space debris. Another is that thousands of satellites reflecting sunlight could make it hard for astronomers to study deep space, not to mention interfere with radio waves.
SpaceX is working to address all of these issues. For starters, the Starlink satellites orbit at 550 kilometers. The lower orbit helps ensure the satellites burn up in the atmosphere at the end of their life, rather than continuing in orbit for hundreds or thousands of years.
The press release states that “on this flight, SpaceX is also testing an experimental darkening treatment on one satellite to further reduce the albedo of the body of the satellites.”
Should the darkening treatment be successful, it should go a long way toward addressing astronomers’ concerns.