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article imageSpaceX launch will test new coating for Starlink satellites

By Karen Graham     Jan 7, 2020 in Technology
SpaceX successfully launched 60 more Starlink satellites into orbit on Monday night, including one with a non-reflective coating as SpaceX seeks to reduce astronomers’ concerns over the brightness of the satellites in the night sky.
The launch took off from Launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral at 9:19:21 p.m. EST Monday (0219:21 GMT Tuesday), aboard a Falcon 9 booster that had been used three times previously, including two in 2019, one of which was the first bulk Starlink mission in May 2019.
Notably, the SpaceX mission was a first for Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the 45th Space Wing. It was the first mission conducted as part of the US Space Force, reports
The booster's fourth touchdown, on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, was picture-perfect, occurring eight minutes and 23 seconds after launch. Catching the rocket's fairing half was not successful. This was confirmed during SpaceX's live feed.
The satellites were delivered to a low-Earth orbit 290 kilometers (around 180 miles), where the satellites will perform diagnostics to ensure they’re in proper working order before moving to their final target orbits at an altitude of 341 miles (550 kilometers).
Test of non-reflective coating on satellites
SpaceX also addressed the concerns of scientists and researchers who note how the glare from the tiny spacecraft can interfere with their ability to observe the night sky. The satellites are particularly visible shortly after they are offloaded from the rocket - as they tend to congregate in a mass before going off to their particular orbits.
SpaceX is testing a less-reflective coating on one of the satellites. One side of the satellite has the special coating. SpaceX wants to be sure the coating will not affect the working of the spacecraft. If this test goes well, future versions of the satellites could be coated in the same material.
Jeff Hall, director of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., says the Starlinks have been just an occasional problem—so far—but notes the risk to stargazing will grow as more the fleet expands and other companies launch their own versions. "Anything that darkens the satellites is a step in the right direction," he says.
More about Spacex, Starlink satellites, nonreflective coating, Astronomers
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