The space exploration technology company SpaceX recently reached an agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). If the company’s Starlink Internet satellites are too close to the International Space Station or other NASA spacecraft, these satellites will Take the initiative to move.
NASA officials said that the “Space Act” agreement signed on March 18 will help maintain and improve space security. So far, SpaceX has put more than 1,400 Starlink Internet satellites into orbit. After launching the Starlink Internet satellite for the first time in 2019, SpaceX has adjusted the satellite design several times to reduce the satellite’s reflection of sunlight, so that satellites in orbit can communicate with each other and even maneuver when necessary.
NASA’s Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in a statement: “As commercial companies launch more and more satellites, it’s important to strengthen communication, exchange data, and set best practices. Only in this way can a safe space environment be maintained.”
In 2020, the International Space Station will have to adjust its orbit several times to avoid possible collisions. This task requires coordination by multiple parties. As the number of satellites in orbit increases, the possibility of collision accidents in space also increases.
SpaceX has long emphasized that Starlink Internet satellites are equipped with automatic obstacle avoidance functions, which can help orbit spacecraft to change positions. NASA hopes that by signing such a new agreement if the spacecraft gets too close again, Starlink Internet satellites will take the initiative to evade.
Moreover, the agreement also requires SpaceX to notify NASA at least one week in advance of each launch of Starlink Internet satellites in order to determine whether the launch mission will cause any possible collision problems. SpaceX also agreed that the initial orbit of its Starlink Internet satellite after launch is at least 5 kilometers away from the International Space Station or other NASA spacecraft.
The agreement stated: “NASA has agreed not to actively maneuver when the spacecraft is approaching, so as to avoid accidental operations by both parties.” “NASA’s spacecraft operation will mainly rely on the active evasion of Starlink Internet satellites. Unless SpaceX otherwise informs, The NASA spacecraft will maintain its established orbit.”
In addition, the cooperation between the two parties also includes further reducing the brightness of Starlink Internet satellites. Currently, SpaceX has installed a special sun visor on the Starlink Internet satellite to reduce the brightness of the spacecraft, but the agreement allows the two parties to further share more information.
SpaceX is not the only company that wants to create space Internet services. OneWeb, Telstar, and Amazon all have their own satellite Internet plans. On March 30, a Starlink Internet satellite and a satellite of OneWeb passed by in operation.
Fortunately, the two companies coordinated with each other, and OneWeb took the initiative to maneuver its satellites. With the rapid increase in the number of satellites in space, such cooperation is likely to be the key to avoiding collisions.