Sunday, 22 September, 2019

ESA avoids orbital crash with SpaceX

ESA’s Aeolus satellite Enlarge Image ESA's Aeolus satellite. ESA ATG medialab
Sandra Phillips | 03 September, 2019, 19:04

The 60 satellites launched are the first of almost 12,000 satellites that SpaceX plans to put into orbit around the earth.to provide satellite-based internet service to underserved regions across the globe.

The constellation in question was SpaceX's Starlink, and the firing of the thrusters of the Aeolus Earth observation satellite was created to raise the orbit of the spacecraft to allow SpaceX's satellite to pass beneath without risking a space slam. Amazon's Jeff Bezos is also pushing to provide internet access around the globe via thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit under Project Kuiper.

ESA experts calculated there was a 1 in 1,000 chance of a collision between the two satellites occurring, as reported by Forbes.

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.

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. In the future, the ESA plans to automate the process of satellite collision avoidance using AI.

Those constellations are purported by SpaceX to feature thousands of satellites.

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The September 2nd move was made just a half-hour ahead of the potential collision. The SpaceX satellites should have automated collision avoidance systems, but this system was not used and it's not clear why.

The maneuver was successful, with the ESA satellite "calling home as usual to send back its science data" after readjusting its orbit, the agency said.

According to Forbes, SpaceX refused to move its satellite after the USA military, which monitors space traffic, alerted it to the impact risk.

Mr Krag said: "Based on this we informed SpaceX, who replied and said that they do not plan to take action".

"SpaceX sent a short email to ESA saying they would not move their satellite", he tweeted.

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