October 27, 2020

Elon Musk talks sun visors for SpaceX satellites, and more tech news today

Elon Musk has a new plan to keep SpaceX satellites in the dark, and more tech news you'll want to read about today.

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Wednesday, April 29. 

1. New: Google Pixel Buds 2020, $179, good but not best

If you’ve spotted a train of Space X satellites orbiting overhead they’re a rather marvelous reminder of what’s above us and what’s possible, while being ominous for night watchers and astronomers alike.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk provided more details about a new plan to mitigate the impact of their Starlink satellite constellation via a sun visor:

  • Musk first mentioned a week ago that SpaceX is fixing it “nowâ€� on Twitter.
  • Now he’s revealed the intent to build a visor, as first reported by Space News in an extensive article:
  • “Musk said the experimental “VisorSat,â€� along with a new approach for orienting Starlink satellites as they raise their orbits, should address concerns raised by astronomers that the Starlink constellation could interfere with their observations.â€�
  • “Our objectives, generally, are to make the satellites invisible to the naked eye within a week, and to minimize the impact on astronomy, especially so that we do not saturate observatory detectors and inhibit discoveries,â€� Musk said.
  • The first approach to reduce satellite visibility was a dark paint job, which helped, but Musk said VisorSat is a better approach: “We found an option that is even better than that, which is basically to give the satellites shades,â€� he said.
  • The VisorSat approach will block inbound sunlight, so the satellites are shaded: “We have a radio-transparent foam that will deploy nearly upon the satellite being released, and it blocks the sun from reaching the antennas. They’re sun visors, essentially: they flip out and block the sun and prevent reflections.â€�
  • Musk predicted that the visors would have a “massive effectâ€� on the brightness of the satellites, while not impacting the solar arrays.
  • In addition, the satellites will be oriented to avoid solar panels reflecting sunlight to earth, to reduce the initial optic visibility as new satellites slowly make their way to higher altitudes from launch.
  • SpaceX intends to test the VisorSat system on the next Starlink launch, which could be in as soon as a few weeks, although Musk didn’t confirm a date.

2. Amazfit’s next smartwatch goes for a curved screen wristband-style (Android Authority).



4. How a handful of Apple and Google employees came together to help health officials trace coronavirus (CNBC).


5. Apple will pay $18 million to settle broken FaceTime suit. Which yeah, sounds good, but members in the class action get $3 each, if they all claim (Engadget).


6. Michael Moore’s green energy takedown—worse than Netflix’s Goop series? “Planet of the Humans is deeply useless. Watch anything else.� (Ars Technica).


7. Utah pauses Banjo’s AI surveillance after learning of owner’s racist past (Engadget).


8. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is seriously close to a $720M stock payout: he doesn’t get a salary, but he’s very close to adding to his fortune as Tesla keeps appealing to investors (CNET).


9. Look at this airport absolutely stuffed with jets, from aerial and satellite photos (The Drive).


10. The race for coronavirus vaccines: a really interesting graphical guide (Nature).


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