ESA forced to redirect satellite after SpaceX ignores collision risk

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But space agencies including ESA have repeatedly warned that mega-constellations such as those sent into space by SpaceX Starlink will pose a drastically increased danger.

The European Space Agency says it has performed an evasive manoeuvre with one of its satellites after rival SpaceX said it wouldn't move its own spacecraft out of the way, risking a potentially catastrophic collision.

We contacted SpaceX to get its take on ESA's antics, but nothing has yet emerged from Musk's media orifice.

The Aeolus satellite, which was launched on August 22, 2018, as a part of a joint initiative of the European Union and ESA to track environmental damage, aid disaster relief operations and improve the quality of weather forecasting, had occupied that particular region of space nine months before SpaceX launched its first batch of 60 internet-beaming Starlink satellites on May 23.

"It is very rare to perform collision-avoidance manoeuvres with active satellites. The vast majority of ESA avoidance maneuvers are the result of dead satellites or fragments from previous collisions", ESA said in the Tweet.

"The manoeuvre took place about 1/2 an orbit before the potential collision". The Aeolus returned to its operational orbit after the manoeuvre, which took place 320 km above the earth.

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

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SpaceX traced the company's inaction to a problem with the Starlink paging system.

However, despite Aeolus occupying this region of space nine months before Starlink 44, SpaceX declined to move their satellite after the two were alerted to the impact risk by the USA military, who monitor space traffic.

"Had the Starlink operator seen the correspondence, we would have coordinated with ESA to determine best approach with their continuing with their manoeuvre or our performing a manoeuvre", the spokesperson said.

SpaceX, founded by billionaire Musk in 2002, this year launched a constellation of 60 broadband-beaming satellites, a project known as Starlink.

Instead, ESA plans to make this process automatic, relying on artificial intelligence to move satellites out of danger.

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.

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