A computer-generated diagram shows the projected orbital paths of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite and the European Space Agency’s Aeolus satellite. (ESA Graphic via Twitter)
The European Space Agency says it performed a collision avoidance maneuver over the Labor Day weekend to head off a potential crash between its Aeolus wind-measuring satellite and one of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband data satellites.
In a series of tweets, ESA said the Sept. 2 event marked the first such maneuver taken to avoid an active satellite in what’s expected to become a “mega constellation” of thousands of satellites — and it warned that such maneuvers posed a grave challenge for future orbital traffic management.
“As the number of satellites in orbit increases … today’s ‘manual’ collision avoidance process will become impossible,” ESA tweeted.
The space agency said the maneuver was executed successfully about half an orbit before the close encounter.
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