The European Space Agency has said it altered the trajectory of one of its observation satellites to avoid a collision with a craft operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Guardian writes.
“@ESA’s Aeolus Earth observation satellite fired its thrusters, moving it off a collision course with a @SpaceX satellite in their Starlink constellation,” the agency’s Twitter account said.
It said its scientists decided the safest plan of action was to boost the altitude of the craft, adding that the manoeuvre on Monday was the “first time ever” it had acted to avoid an active satellite.
“The vast majority of ESA avoidance manoeuvres are the result of dead satellites or fragments from previous collisions,” it said.
A SpaceX spokesperson said a bug in its on-call operating system prevented the team from seeing that the risk of a collision with the ESA craft may have increased.
“Had the Starlink operator seen the correspondence, we would have coordinated with ESA to determine best approach with their continuing with their manoeuvre or our performing a manoeuvre,” the spokesperson said.
SpaceX, founded by Musk in 2002, this year launched a constellation of 60 broadband-beaming satellites, a project known as Starlink.
The initial launch prompted astronomers to raise the alarm over the risk of a possible collision and briefly prompted a spate of UFO sightings over the Netherlands. SpaceX says the Starlink constellation could eventually reach 12,000 satellites.
Faced with an increase of privately run craft, which number around 20,000 in Earth’s atmosphere, the ESA will hold a meeting in November focused on space security.