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ESA avoids orbital crash with SpaceX

September 3, 2019

By Chris Forrester

An orbiting Earth observation satellite has had its orbit shifted to avoid a space collision with a satellite operated by SpaceX’s Starlink fleet.

Back on May 23rd SpaceX launched 60 satellites aboard one rocket, and it is this initial portion of Elon Musk’s massive eventual 11,800-craft fleet that has created the potential problem.

The European Space Agency (ESA), in a statement from its ESA Operations team Sept 2, said it had to fire the on-board thrusters of its Aeolus craft in order to remove itself from a possible collision with a Starlink satellite. This is the second time this year that ESA has had to take avoidance, although last year it had to take anti-collision action on 28 separate occasions.

The September 2nd move was made just a half-hour ahead of the potential collision.

One unconfirmed report says that SpaceX “refused” to alter the course of its satellites. However, Matt Desch, the well-regarded CEO of Iridium satellites, in a Tweet, said “We move our satellites on average once a week and don’t put out a press release to say who we maneuvered around… “

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