back to article Everyone remembers their first time: ESA satellite dodges 'mega constellation'

The European Space Agency (ESA) accomplished a first today: moving one of its satellites away from a potential collision with a "mega constellation". The constellation in question was SpaceX's Starlink, and the firing of the thrusters of the Aeolus Earth observation satellite was designed to raise the orbit of the spacecraft …

  1. Dvon of Edzore

    Dodgy Excuses

    It should also be noted the Starlink birds fly in an orbit considered too low for most scientific and commercial uses, as it is in the upper fringes of the atmosphere and will decay without continuous attention like an old Star Trek plot. This is by intent, to solve the "dead stuff being a space hazard" problem as the things naturally fall back to earth in a few years if the guidance or propulsion fails.

    What the ESA is really doing in such a low orbit is up for speculation.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Dodgy Excuses

      What the ESA is really doing in such a low orbit is up for speculation.

      No, it is not "up for speculation". It is acquiring profiles of wind to aid in forecasting accuracy.

      https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Aeolus/Introducing_Aeolus

      I suppose you have some conspiracy theory about this, but sounds like someone with a Musk excuse syndrome - because Musk Starlink is by definition "good", and any satellite in a similar orbit should be viewed with suspicion.

      1. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: Dodgy Excuses

        Conspiracy theory???

        Has the ESA denied they are using this satellite to train foxes to wear bowler hats so that they can take over the world's financial system?

        No, they have not.

        WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!!!

        1. TimeMaster T
          Devil

          Re: Dodgy Excuses

          SHHHHH!!!

          You'll wake them

          https://xkcd.com/1013/

          1. John Mangan

            Re: Dodgy Excuses

            @TimeMaster T

            Thanks, that's a new favourite XKCD for me!

            What other similes could unexpectedly not do our species any favours? Discuss.

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Dodgy Excuses

          "train foxes to wear bowler hats so that they can take over the world's financial system?"

          I'd rather trust a fox than the fuckers who run it now.

        3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Dodgy Excuses

          train foxes to wear bowler hats

          So THAT'S what the latest firefox update was doing! Just SAY NO!

    2. rg287 Silver badge

      Re: Dodgy Excuses

      What the ESA is really doing in such a low orbit is up for speculation.

      Read the article. Aeolus only has a 3-year lifespan due to the operational requirements of the observations it is doing, the desired spatial resolution, and the dusk-dawn sun-synchronous orbit. Plenty of Earth Observation Satellites are in low orbits if they need to be. Others are in higher orbits, particularly if spatial resolution isn't too important (you don't need sub-metre pixels if you're measuring ocean surface temperatures).

    3. defiler Silver badge

      Re: Dodgy Excuses

      What the ESA is really doing in such a low orbit is up for speculation.

      Brainwashing satellites to thwart Brexit!!

      Nige told me.

  2. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Starlink hasn't been up long

    Why did they put Starlink in an orbit that comes so close to an existing bird so quickly?

    Starlink has only been up a couple of months so surely this close encounter should have been predictable with reasonable certainty.

    Who is doing the equivalent of planning permission, and why was SpaceX granted permission? Or is this Starlink in a different orbit to the one they had permission for?

    What are the rules of the road as to who does the avoidance In Space!, anyway? On the high seas the smaller (powered) ship is required to give way unless it can't. In this case it seems the bigger one moved - is that usual rules, or special in this case?

    1. steveayre

      Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

      > What are the rules of the road as to who does the avoidance In Space!, anyway? On the high seas the smaller (powered) ship is required to give way unless it can't. In this case it seems the bigger one moved - is that usual rules, or special in this case?

      You need some way for them to pick who's doing what too... if they both a change there'll remain a chance of collision.

      1. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

        Needs a new edition?

        (Which way is port in space?)

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

          The enemy's gate is down.

          1. ibmalone Silver badge

            Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

            ISTR that not leading to collision aversion...

        2. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

          Assuming you aren’t the Borg most space vessels have a bow and a stern. Once you have those Port and starboard fall out of that. Assuming you can do handedness, I have a daughter who is cross lateral. She has no innate sense of left and right and has to think about it. She’s in Bioinfo and in DNA there’s 5’ and 3’ and major and minor grooves, oh and in chromosomes distance and direction are relative the centromere.

          During embryonic development whether you are left or right handed or even situs inversus depends on which way the cillia (little beating hairs) beat in the relevant direction at the stage when you basically consist of a groove in a plate of cells (primitive streak stage).

          1. ibmalone Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

            Port and starboard don't come out automatically from bow and stern unless you also know which way is up, meaning there's an element of arbitrary choice (may as well pick which way is port). So far as the rules of the road at sea go, most vessels agree which way down is. Unless it's a really bad day.

        3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

          (Which way is port in space?)

          The way it's always been - in the decanter next to the Ardbeg 15-year old whisky..

          (Sadly, port is one of the things that T2 diabetes has required me to give up - massive BG spike if I drink it :-( )

          1. ibmalone Silver badge

            Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

            Leading to a further question, what way do you pass the port in space?

      2. jwa

        Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

        Not correct, the international regulations for the prevention of collisions at sea apply. It's like the highway code for ships.

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

      What are the rules of the road as to who does the avoidance In Space!

      Let's see Musk master collision avoidance on terra firma first before worrying about the high seas or space

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

        before worrying about the high seas or space

        And underground.. (I await the headline of "Boring Company manages to trigger San Andreas fault. Musk is quoted as saying "It's not our fault, someone left the fault in the wrong place"").

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

      In this case it seems the bigger one moved

      Self preservation? No point standing your ground even if you are in the right and get smashed into bits

    4. Lusty

      Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

      "On the high seas the smaller (powered) ship is required to give way unless it can't."

      Nope, not even close. There are very well defined regulations (colregs) for sea and small boats use the same rules as large ships unless one is constrained by draft and showing suitable signals. This could well be a relatively small yacht with a deep keel. Out on the "high seas" that doesn't apply since draft wouldn't be an issue, so you're back to passing port-port, or using the traffic lights on the side of the boats (nav lights are green on one side and red the other, showing who should yield). Finally, in a collision scenario such as this, the most alert skipper must take action since nobody has right of way.

      Your question remains though...who is actually planning and preventing disaster? I feel it's nobody right now and that's a worry.

      1. My Alter Ego

        Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

        You also have to factor in the incredibly important rule "fiberglass gives way to steel".

        1. OssianScotland Silver badge

          Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

          From several years sailing (and diving) in Plymouth Sound, the local rule is "If it's big and painted grey (or black with periscopes), you get out of its way."

          Memories of a deep (35m) dive down the side of the main shipping channel, when HMS Brazen came by at some speed.

          1. Anne-Lise Pasch

            Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

            That's pretty brazen.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

            "If it's big and painted grey (or black with periscopes), you get out of its way."

            Much like the rule for flying microlight aircraft anywhere near RAF Lynham used to be "Don't".[1]. Because a Herc won't even notice the small bump as you get smeared all over its fuselage..

            [1] Legally - don't go under 1000ft over Lyneham or over 1000ft over Swindon/North Wilts. In practice however, this translates as "don't fly near Lynham". Obviously, that rule may have changed now that Lyneham isn't an active airbase any more.

        2. Anne-Lise Pasch

          Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

          Malta driving law 101 :)

        3. The Real Tony Smith

          Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

          You also have to factor in the incredibly important rule "fiberglass gives way to steel".

          I used to know someone with a boat, he didn't bother with all that colregs stuff, if he was ever on a collision course with someone he'd just shout at the top of his voice 'I'm concrete!". They soon got out of his way

        4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

          "fiberglass gives way to steel"

          "There's no substitute for cold steel. They do not like it up 'em, they DON'T LIKE IT UP 'EM"

          Lance-Corporal Jones

        5. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

          ""fiberglass gives way to steel"."

          The Law of Gross Tonnage"

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

            The Law of Gross Tonnage

            AKA "God is on the side of the big battalions"..

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Starlink hasn't been up long

        >Your question remains though...who is actually planning and preventing disaster? I feel it's nobody right now and that's a worry.

        There currently aren't any rules on the matter.

        Debris and Satellites are monitored and calculations are continually made/refined to calculate the probability of a collision.

        Once the probability passes a certain threshold then additional tracking resources may be allocated to gain an even more precise estimation of the proximity of the pass.

        The operations team will be notified and in the case of dead satellite/debris will plan an avoidance maneuver should it be required.

        In the case of active satellites the agency will contact the operator of the other satellite and they will discuss who will perform a maneuver - this is too avoid both parties not communicating with each other and both performing maneuvers in the same direction, hence increasing the chance of a collision.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Update.

      Turns out it was a dead Starlink Satellite. So nothing much SpaceX could do. Sats fail all the time. When you put that many up, something might happen on your first try.

  3. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

    Where the Earth is surrounded by a cloud of derelict satellites. Somebody needs to come up with a way to decide what satellites should be placed in what orbits.

    1. TimeMaster T
      Thumb Up

      Re: Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

      I though exactly the same thing when I read the article.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

      > Somebody needs to come up with a way to decide what satellites should be placed in what orbits.

      I guess everybody would love orbits to be auctioned off (especially the valuable ones), the companies because they can buy themselves a nice orbital real estate with guaranteed rising long-term value, and the organizations/governments who will get big money for just signing a paper. Win-win.

      (Who needs scientific satellites anyway, it's not like we have any use for weather forecasts and such nonsense... There is money to be made here!)

      /s

      .

      (Seriously, while I agree with the general idea, I don't see any way this can be enforced, not now space has become the new Eldorado and all the conquistadors are moving in. All right, maybe I'm just a pessimist, but my pessimism has never been betrayed so far.)

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

        I can see why this would be a desirable thing, but allowing it would be against the terms of the Outer Space Treaty. I've put the relevant bit paraphrased by Wikipedia below:

        The treaty explicitly forbids any government to claim a celestial resource such as the Moon or a planet.[9] Article II of the treaty states that "outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means." However, the State that launches a space object retains jurisdiction and control over that object.[10] The State is also liable for damages caused by its space object.[11]

        IANAL but I would assume that an Orbital altitude band counts as a resource.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

          Claiming by a nation state and management on a collaborative international basis are two different things. The first doesn't preclude the latter and it's the latter that's needed.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

            True, but chances are that the initially virtuous and impartial international organization created to control this high-value market will inevitably degenerate into a heavily lobbied entity where money does all the talking.

            (Don't forget such an organization would also have to arbitrate in asteroid mining and similar space enterprises, and bribes lobbying is proportional to the sums at stake.)

            1. jmch Silver badge

              Re: Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

              "True, but chances are that the initially virtuous and impartial international organization created to control this high-value market will inevitably degenerate into a heavily lobbied entity where money does all the talking."

              Thumbs Up for that. It's easy for nations to agree to go hands-off in space when there is no realistic chance of gain from it. Once the gain moves to the reach of the possible, the niceties start falling away

        2. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

          "However, the State that launches a space object retains jurisdiction and control over that object.[10] The State is also liable for damages caused by its space object.[11]"

          Interesting that it looks like it was written back in the days when the only actors in space were states and not private individuals. For example does the US have jurisdiction over any satellites launched from the US, or if it involves a US company? What if (for example) SpaceX buys / builds it's own launch facility on a Caribbean island* and incorporates there?

          *In a hollowed-out extinct volcano, natch!

    3. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

      Obviously the answer is...... Blockchain in SPAAAACE!

    4. phuzz Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

      Wait a few years and the atmospheric drag will pull the derelicts out of orbit (if they haven't been put into a deliberately decaying orbit already). Musk's Starlink satellites are in a fairly low orbit already.

    5. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

      Somebody needs to come up with a way to decide what satellites should be placed in what orbits.

      How many of the countries deploying satellites even have a concept of planning permission?

    6. fargonebastage
      Coat

      Re: Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

      Do not worry we have a method for dragging them down from orbit and forcing them to burn up on re-entry... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Frequency_Active_Auroral_Research_Program

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like another step towards realizing "Wall-E"

        At least that one's working unlike the laser broom: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_broom

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wow

    this sounds really serious

    we should launch immediate a constellation of surveying satellites that can mesh network together and use internal gps clocks and some way to survey their orbit really accurately (iunno, bounce radar to the land at known retroreflectors) then use their sar to detect everything that's worryingly big in orbit really accurately and find a way to release these elements like super easy super fast like make a very fast chain from detection to being a json on some respectably independently-nationally based organisations servers

    oh and crunch anything that looks like it'll collide and allow satellite operators to register a collision contact before actual crunch crashes the craft, probably the point you could chuck AI at it woo ai

    yes they should do that definitely maybe like iceland or norway or new zealand would like to head it and collect funds from governments and corporations desirous of safe uncluttered surveyed space and get together and do that

    1. F111F
      Go

      Re: wow

      Or...your gov't/agency/company could just sign up for data sharing from the Space Fence 2.0 coming on line shortly. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Fence

      FTA: "As of November 2014, the USAF Strategic Command had "announced data-sharing agreements with at least seven countries and 44 companies, but [the details of] those agreements have [not] been made public" and it is unclear how much of the new Space Fence data will be shared.

      Countries with space situational awareness data-sharing agreements in place with the USAF include Australia, Japan, Italy, Canada, France, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom. It also "has agreements with the European Space Agency and Europe’s Eumetsat weather satellite organization."

  5. Uncle Ron

    Telecom Companies Rule

    All the telecom companies on Earth are stutteringly terrified by Starlink and others of it's ilk. Direct-to-home high-speed internet service threatens their fat cushy gravy train. Government regulated high-speed internet service is unbelievably profitable. So who do you guess is behind the promotion of this non-story? You guessed it. The fact is that the ESA had to modify the orbits of it various satellites TWENTY EIGHT times last year. This is not news. It is also not news because the orbits of the Starlink constellation are much lower than the vast majority of scientific and observation satellites to reduce ping times and for this very reason to avoid such conflicts. Look elsewhere for a good Danger! story. This isn't one.

    1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: Telecom Companies Rule

      WAKE UP SHEEPLE!

      ...Oh, we did that one...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Telecom Companies Rule

      " high-speed internet service "

      The subject under discussion is satellites, not a medium speed internet service with horrendous latency.

      1. mutant_guest

        Re: Telecom Companies Rule

        Sadly, Starlink has lower latency than most practical terrestrial networks, so that observation misses the target no matter how well-intentioned it might have been.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Telecom Companies Rule

          "Starlink has lower latency than most practical terrestrial networks"

          (citation needed)

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: Telecom Companies Rule

            ""Starlink has lower latency than most practical terrestrial networks"

            (citation needed)"

            I can't find a direct citation, but short answer is that (a) speed of light in space is faster than through optical fibre and (b) the satellites are in a very low orbit. So for long distances (ie intercontinental), it's faster to go up to the satellite, across to the next satellite, and then back down, than through an undersea cable. Latency is still higher over short distances

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Telecom Companies Rule

        20Gbs per satellite, 10~20ms latency direct.

        12,000 satellites total, 240 Tbs network capacity max

        Reality will be very different of course but it would be strange to describe it as medium speed with horrendous latency. That would be for traditional satellite internet.

    3. find users who cut cat tail

      Re: Telecom Companies Rule

      > All the telecom companies on Earth are stutteringly terrified by Starlink and others of it's ilk.

      All? Maybe American... Why would be ISPs here terrified by Starlink? They offer 200 Mb/s and better latency for 13.5 € per month right now -- not in 2027.

      But I am terrified by some company usurping low orbits.

      1. HamsterNet

        Re: Telecom Companies Rule

        Ping is lower. Do some maths :)

        Speed the latest fibre cable from NY to Spain has an average transmission speed of just 121,212kph, just on the 4,000km cable, + transmission times from the end of the cable to the endpoints.

        Now the Speed of light in the atmosphere is 299700kph. The speed of light in vacume 299792kph.

        Can you see where this is going? If you're only broadcasting from source to to Very low earth orbit, accross and back down direct to target, Starlink will have substantially lower ping for translatic coms and the advantage grows the further the points are away from each other. Even a few ms lower will have a huge finical gain to the high-frequency traders.

        The only reason old school Sat coms is pants is a Geostationary orbit round trip is a minimum of 72,000 KM.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Telecom Companies Rule

          "Now the Speed of light in the atmosphere is 299700kph"

          You're missing a bunch of other factors. Bit rate and baud rate are not the same thing (think 64 or 128QAM). Radio circuits have high ping because of these things and the majority of your latency is in the DSL hop - which is a fancy array of low speed 16-64QAM radio carriers operating between 0-17MHz(or 34MHz) each modulated at 2400baud or so whilst constrained on a wire.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Telecom Companies Rule

            You are banking on the speed of light to necessarily generate faster comms. It doesn't. We've had lots of things that used waves traveling at the speed of light to send data back and forth, including nearly every type of radio comms system you could build at the time, and plenty of them were rather slow. The waves move faster through air than through a cable, but what mostly matters is how fast they can be encoded and decoded at the ends. If, for example, the frequencies in use are prone to collisions, that introduces a bunch of latency that wouldn't be there otherwise. Cables don't really have this problem. That's not the only issue either. To illustrate this, consider that modern satellite internet uses the same geostationary orbits that the original ones used, and while latency isn't much improved, bandwidth has been rising rapidly. The electronics have improved; the physics is the same. So just because there are some numbers that look like they make a point, it doesn't necessarily mean they're correct.

            In addition, consider how the satellites actually send data. You have to uplink to a satellite. If that satellite isn't in range of the target, it has to send a signal to another one. That might have to happen a number of times before you reach a satellite in the right geographic position, which then downlinks to a ground facility, which uses cable to connect to the host, which then contacts the ground facility with the data, which sends that to the satellite, which has to send the result back to your satellite, and then it arrives at your house. All these factors could introduce latency problems, and some could introduce bandwidth problems. If there isn't a conveniently-located ground facility for your destination, you might end up experiencing most of the cable delay anyway. If you're after a server in a place like Singapore, with a lot of servers and little room for satellite downlink space, you might find that the relatively few satellites there are heavily burdened. A lot of this is difficult to calculate without access to the full documentation that the company has and guessing at part of it. At least, not until it actually goes into service and we can experience it for ourselves. Until then, you might want to think twice before declaring it's definite success with such vigor.

        2. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

          Re: Telecom Companies Rule

          s!kph!km/s!g

  6. Pangasinan Philippines
    Childcatcher

    And in the future . . . .

    Viewers of Sky TV will have blank screens when LEO satellites pass in front of the GEO birds.

    Also DJI rocket powered drones will create havoc in space. (future SUN headline)

  7. tony2heads

    Kessler effect coming soon

    anyone seen the movie Gravity

  8. big_D Silver badge

    UFO?

    This sounds like a plot from UFO. So much space debris that it is hard to navigate or spot incoming UFOs.

    You need an international space agency to co-ordinate this... It works so well on terra firma...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: UFO?

      "You need an international space agency to co-ordinate this..."

      I nominate you to wear the purple wig.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't satellite broadband pretty much one-way ?

    Or are there powerful earth based transmitters involved too ?

    1. big_D Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Isn't satellite broadband pretty much one-way ?

      You mean like satellite telephones can only receive calls and you can't speak? ;-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Isn't satellite broadband pretty much one-way ?

      You don't need 'powerful earth based transmitters'. There's a vehicle parked outside my window with 2-way satellite internet on the roof - It's just a tad sloooowwwww.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Isn't satellite broadband pretty much one-way ?

        Short answer: no.

        Long answer: Satellite phones. Satellite media uplink stations. Current satellite internet. None are new, none require powerful transmitters on the surface. They don't really require all that powerful transmitters on the satellite either when you compare them to lots of other things.

  10. Alastair MacDiarmid

    Doesn't make any sense, Starlink constellation is at a completely different altitude. Only thing that makes sense is if it's one of the couple that didn't deploy correctly and are in a decaying orbit in which case Spacex can't do anything about it, or the couple that are deliberately being lowered as a test. Also, if ESA are performing ~280 avoidance maneuvers a year this is nothing special, one wonders why they are making a big deal about it. Matt Desch / Iridium: "Hmmm. We move our satellites on average once a week and don't put out a press release to say who we maneuvered around... "

  11. Starace Silver badge
    Alert

    SpaceX refused to move

    Reports on Twitter (eg. https://twitter.com/Astro_Jonny/status/1168592399729397767 ) that ESA contacted SpaceX to ask them to move their satellite and they said no and were generally unhelpful.

    Whether this was because of their Musky corporate culture, or because their cheaply built junk satellite is actually incapable of manoeuvring isn't clear.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SpaceX refused to move

      Sources said ....

      Let's see the e-mail to determine what it said. I mean SOCRATES data said the risk of collision was 1~1,000,000 but the ESA determined that it would be 1~1000 and so moved their satellite. They determined that the risk was too great for them and moved their satellite, seems reasonable?

      It's not like the ESA are much of a fan of SpaceX so it is interesting that they chose to go to a journalist about this incident and not any of the other 100s of times they have had to avoid man-made and natural debris with their satellites.

    2. Pete4000uk

      Re: SpaceX refused to move

      Hope next time no one moves!

    3. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: SpaceX refused to move

      Wow. Just wow.

      You know how many Sky sats fail? Or NASA ones? But one or two of the 60 odd SpaceX ones fail... when requested on *Twitter* and not through official channels, and everyone gets snarky.

      Lol. I'ma get some popcorn.

    4. Brangdon

      Re: SpaceX refused to move

      It was because of a communication failure. Someone at SpaceX didn't see the later emails because of a problem with an on-call pager. See my post below for SpaceX statement.

  12. TeeCee Gold badge
    Alert

    ...performing such moves manually would soon become impossible.

    Bit of an issue for any older or dead stuff already up there. Can't be long before a node in someone's "mega constellation" becomes a cloud of debris with random vectors inconveniently sited at the same altitude as the rest of said constellation, with obvious results.

  13. sprogg2001

    Aeolus orbits at 320km starlink operational orbit is 520km, so not much chance of collision with the "constellation", starlink do have 3 non-functional satellites in the process of passively deorbiting, so thats likely why they can't move. NORAD tracker puts the closest starlink would come to Aeolus is 50km so yeah... And lastly did you see @iridiumboss tweet that they perform collision avoidance manoeuvres about once a week, without the need to put out a press release each time. Poor widdel ESA.

  14. hoola Bronze badge

    Big (Tech) Business, Musk & Bezos

    Anyone see a pattern here?

    Neither could give a shit about anything they do as long as it raises their profile or makes money. Because these "Constellations" are cheap bits of junk that are easily replaced it will always be in the interests of the other party to move. The fun will come when two of these constellations collide, at that point I would assume all bets are off because the debris field will be huge.

    I would assume in the long held tradition of Must and Bezos, as long as there crap is okay who cares about anything else.

    1. Brangdon

      Re: Big (Tech) Business, Musk & Bezos

      "Cheap" is relative. A collision would still cost millions. And by the same token, avoiding the collision would only have the effect of using up some propellant otherwise used for station keeping, and so reduce the lifespan of the satellite, and since these satellites have short lifetimes anyway and are (relatively) "easily replaced" the real downside of that is low.

  15. td0s

    Musket Al

    The fastest space debris slinger in the west

  16. Brangdon

    This was a communication failure. Space statement:

    "Our Starlink team last exchanged an email with the Aeolus operations team on August 28, when the probability of collision was only in the 2.2e-5 range (or 1 in 50k), well below the 1e-4 (or 1 in 10k) industry standard threshold and 75 times lower than the final estimate. At that point, both SpaceX and ESA determined a maneuver was not necessary. Then, the U.S. Air Force's updates showed the probability increased to 1.69e-3 (or more than 1 in 10k) but a bug in our on-call paging system prevented the Starlink operator from seeing the follow on correspondence on this probability increase - SpaceX is still investigating the issue and will implement corrective actions. However, had the Starlink operator seen the correspondence, we would have coordinated with ESA to determine best approach with their continuing with their maneuver or our performing a maneuver."

    Apparently it was a holiday in the US. The constellation isn't yet operational or fully stocked. Still, SpaceX should do better.

  17. Alastair MacDiarmid

    Yesterdays update from spacex

    Update: 09/03/19 1:19pm ET: SpaceX has issued a statement clearing up its correspondence with SpaceX:

    "Our Starlink team last exchanged an email with the Aeolus operations team on August 28, when the probability of collision was only in the 2.2e-5 range (or 1 in 50k), well below the 1e-4 (or 1 in 10k) industry standard threshold and 75 times lower than the final estimate. At that point, both SpaceX and ESA determined a maneuver was not necessary. Then, the U.S. Air Force's updates showed the probability increased to 1.69e-3 (or more than 1 in 10k) but a bug in our on-call paging system prevented the Starlink operator from seeing the follow on correspondence on this probability increase – SpaceX is still investigating the issue and will implement corrective actions. However, had the Starlink operator seen the correspondence, we would have coordinated with ESA to determine best approach with their continuing with their maneuver or our performing a maneuver."

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