The European Space Agency (ESA) announced this week that it had to maneuver its Aeolus satellite away from its orbit path to avoid collision with Starlink satellite of SpaceX. The agency stated that this is the first time that it had to carry out a maneuver like this to avoid another satellite that is part of a mega broadband constellation. Speaking about the event through a series of tweets from ESA’s Official account it gave out details about the actual maneuver undertaken by Aeolus to avoid clashing with Starlink 44.
The expert at ESA’s SpaceDebris team after calculating the risk of collision decided that the safest course of action would be pass over the SpaceX satellite by increasing the altitude of its own satellite. This maneuver was carried out around half an orbit before their closest approach and after it was done spacecraft did not display any signs of trouble and is operating normally. The agency also shared details about how close both spacecrafts had come during the closest approach mode. It also discussed about what communications it had with SpaceX to avert the crisis and what would have happened in the event of collision.
Director of ESA’s Space Safety Program Office Holger Krag, stated that their conjunction assessment team observed the potential collision course of both satellites almost a week in advance. This was possible thanks to data provided by USAF’s 18th Space Control Squadron. After noticing the probability of collision they shared the details with SpaceX and shared plans about how they will avert the eventuality. Decision to maneuver the ESA satellite was taken just the day before it was actually carried out. SpaceX stated that when it was informed about potential conjunction in 28th August the threat was 1 in 50,000 but refined data from USAF increased the probability. A bug in Starlink’s paging system prevented them from seeing this probability and it will implement corrective measures to prevent this issue.
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