The European space agency has avoided a possible collision with a us satellite with an emergency orbit change operation. Spacex, accused of “laissez faire”, said on September 3rd that poor communications had prevented it from taking action.
About a week ago, us air force data indicated that the collision between the European space agency’s fengshen weather satellite and starchain 44 satellite was likely on September 2, the agency said in a statement on Wednesday. Contacted by esa’s space debris office on August 28, starlink replied within a day that no action was planned. On May 23, spacex sent 60 starlink satellites into low-earth orbit 550 kilometers above the earth.
The esa said the probability of a collision was one in 10,000, the threshold at which action should be taken. On September 1st the probability of a collision rose to about one in 1,000. On September 2, the European space agency decided that the American satellite would not change orbit based on the previous communication records.
‘when we contacted esa on August 28, the risk of collision was only 1 in 50,000,’ spacex said in a statement Wednesday. The air force later warned that the risk of a collision was more than one in 10,000, but the company’s communications systems failed, preventing technicians from seeing the emails that followed.
Holger delag, esa’s head of space safety, said neither side was at fault in the incident, but it showed the urgent need for proper space traffic management, smooth communication between satellite operators and the development of automatic spacecraft avoidance technology.
Spacex plans to build a network of about 12,000 satellites in space between 2019 and 2024, of which 1,584 will be deployed in low-earth orbit 550 kilometers above the earth. However, the international astronomical community has been concerned about the large number of Internet satellites that could affect astronomical observations and the risk of collisions with spacecraft.