SpaceX places a premium on collaboration with other satellite operators

SpaceX said it is working very closely with a diverse variety of satellite operators to guarantee safe space operations, two years after a close approach of the Starlink satellite with the European Space Agency satellite frightened some in the space business. In September 2019, the European Space Agency (ESA) stated that it had adjusted the Aeolus Earth science satellite after determining that it was going to pass dangerously near to a Starlink satellite. In the days coming up to the near approach, there was a communication breakdown between ESA and SpaceX, which worsened the issue.

Following that incident, “we set to work cooperating” with both government and commercial satellite operators, stated David Goldstein, who serves as the principal guidance, navigation, as well as control engineer at the SpaceX Company, during a discussion panel at Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies, (AMOS), Conference on September 16.

The most well-known example of this cooperation is the March announcement of a Space Act Agreement involving NASA and SpaceX. SpaceX promised to move the Starlink satellites in the case of any close encounters with NASA spacecraft under the parameters of that agreement, so order to avoid scenarios in which both parties moved their satellites.

Aside from that, Goldstein claimed the firm has the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement together with the United States Space Force and an “excellent working relationship” with ESA and the European Union’s Space Surveillance and Tracking program.

These alliances include OneWeb, which filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission in March over a close encounter between one of its recently launched satellites and a Starlink satellite. “After that merger in March, we have a terrific working relationship with OneWeb,” Goldstein added. “On the operational level, it’s just incredible coordination.”

He applauded OneWeb in particular for its support of the continuing Inspiration4 crewed mission, noting that “they jumped via a lot of hoops” to give updated information on the satellites’ orbits. Goldstein was on the panel via video from SpaceX’s headquarters since he is delivering collision avoidance assistance for Inspiration4, which is set to launch on Sept. 15 for a three-day mission. Astroscale, which develops systems to service satellites and clear orbital debris, and the United Launch Alliance are two other firms with which SpaceX is collaborating on space traffic management. He explained that the collaboration with ULA is aimed at addressing “launch COLA [collision avoidance] difficulties.”

LeoLabs, which operates a network of tracking radars and offers commercial space traffic management services, just secured a contract with SpaceX. “They’re doing fantastic work, and we’re quite pleased of their achievements and the assistance they’ve provided to us and others,” he added. Slingshot Beacon, which is a collaboration platform created by Slingshot Aerospace to let satellite operators share space traffic statistics, has also piqued Goldstein’s interest. He believes the tool will make it easier for businesses to share data and manage prospective collaborations.

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