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Near collision between ESA and SpaceX satellite

Accepted submission by quietus at 2019-09-03 18:36:15
Science

About a week ago, the 18th Space Control Squadron, US Air Force, relayed warning data [esa.int] to the European Space Agency.

The data indicated that there was a non-negligible collision risk between ESA's Aeolus satellite and Starlink44, an active SpaceX satellite, at 11:02 UTC on Monday, 2 September.

As days passed, the probability of collision continued to increase, and by Wednesday, August 28, ESA's Ops team decided to reach out to Starlink to discuss their options. Within a day, the Starlink team informed ESA that they had no plan to take action at that point. By Thursday evening, ESA's probability threshold for conducting an avoidance manoeuvre had been reached, and preparations were made to lift Aeolus 350 meter in orbit. By Sunday evening, chances of a collision had risen to 1 in 1000, and commands were sent to the Aeolus satellite, which triggered a total of 3 thruster burns on Monday morning, half an orbit before the potential collision. About half an hour after the collision prediction time, Aeolus contacted base, and normal measurement operations could continue.

What the SpaceX satellite was doing in ESA's Aeolus orbit is not clear [theregister.co.uk].

ESA has taken the opportunity to point out that, given SpaceX plans to put up 20,000 of those things, handling monitoring and avoidance semi-manually, and by mail, is no longer practical.


Original Submission