Space agency satellite forced to dodge SpaceX ‘mega constellation’ orbiting Earth

Pablo Tucker
September 3, 2019

Earlier this year, SpaceX launched several interlinked satellites to the heavens as a part of the Starlink project aiming to push the Elon Musk aerospace company in the global internet provider sphere.

A European Space Agency's satellite was on a collision course with the SpaceX Starlink constellation.

Eventually, this "mega constellation" will expand so that the 12,000-satellite fleet are speeding around Earth.

ESA experts calculated there was a 1 in 1,000 chance of a collision between the two satellites occurring, as reported by Forbes. Firing up its thrusters, the Aeolus gained altitude, passing over the SpaceX satellites.

While this is a first for a "mega constellation", ESA is well practiced at dodging satellites, although mostly dead ones (or debris.) In 2018, the boffins keeping track of things had to perform 28 manoeuvres. The ESA further pointed out that such manoeuvres are time-consuming and involve determining the future orbital positions of all functioning spacecraft and calculating the risk of collision based on that.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has claimed that it has had to perform a collision avoidance manoeuvre to prevent its satellite from crashing into a satellite operated by SpaceX in its Starlink constellation. Astronomers fear that the SpaceX satellites will shine so bright, they will block the view of space.

The ESA operations team confirmed that this morning's manoeuvre took place approximately half an orbit before the potential pileup.

When there is such a high degree of danger, it will become almost impossible for engineers to spot potential collisions and move satellites out of danger. The ESA said that it was developing artificial intelligence to automate the complicated process.

SpaceX reportedly refused to move its satellite when alerted to the risk of collision, according to space journalist Jonathan O'Callaghan.

"Hmmm. We move our satellites on average once a week and don't put out a press release to say who we maneuvered around..." he tweeted.

He added: "It was at least clear who had to react".

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