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A European Space Agency (ESA) satellite conducted a critical maneuver on Monday to ensure that it did not hit one of SpaceX’s Starlink internet crafts.

On Sept. 2, the ESA’s Aeolus satellite elevated its orbit to safely pass over Starlink 44, an important internet satellite part of SpaceX’s “Starlink” megaconstellation, Space.com reported. ESA officials confirmed that the evasive operation was successful and that no collision occurred at the time.

ESA officials noted how collision avoidance maneuvers are typically not performed with active satellites and that a majority take place as a result of fragments from previous collisions.

“It is very rare to perform collision avoidance maneuvers with active satellites,” ESA officials explained in a follow-up tweet. “The vast majority of ESA avoidance maneuvers are the result of dead satellites or fragments from previous collisions.”

Holger Krag, head of ESA’s Space Debris Office, told Forbes.com that the risk of collision between Aeolus and Starlink 44 was 1 in 1,000, which was ten times greater than the threshold for engaging in a collision-avoidance maneuver. Despite the risk of the two satellites bumping into each other, SpaceX reportedly didn’t move Starlink 44.

“Based on this, we informed SpaceX, who replied and said that they do not plan to take action,” Krag told Forbes.com. “It was at least clear who had to react.”

SpaceX discovered that there was an issue with the Starlink paging system, which led to the company not responding to the potential collision scenario on September 2. The last time the Starlink team sent emails with Aeolus’ handlers was August 28 and the collision risk was only in the 1-in-50,000 range on that day, according to SpaceX representatives.

“At that point, both SpaceX and ESA determined a maneuver was not necessary,” a SpaceX representative told Space.com. “Then, the U.S. Air Force’s updates showed the probability increased to 1.69e-3 (or more than 1 in 10,000), but a bug in our on-call paging system prevented the Starlink operator from seeing the follow-on correspondence on this probability increase.”

They added, “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.”

The ESA also mentioned that they will use an automated process to monitor potential collisions in the future.

“ESA is preparing to automate this process using #AI #ArtificialIntelligence,” ESA officials wrote on Twitter. “From the initial assessment of a potential collision to a satellite moving out of the way, automated systems are becoming necessary to protect our space infrastructure.” 

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