SpaceX and NASA sign space flight safety agreement to avoid collisions

NASA and SpaceX rejoin forces and sign an agreement Thursday with the aim of improving the safety of space flight.

The 13-page agreement focuses on avoiding conjunction and avoiding launch collisions between NASA spacecraft, SpaceX’s Starlink Internet satellite constellation, and any related carpool missions.


In a statement detailing the agreement, NASA noted that the conjunction is defined as a close approach between two objects in space at high speed.

Starlink’s satellites, of which there are now more than 1,200 in orbit, are equipped with global navigation services receivers that are used to estimate orbital parameters, an ion propulsion system and an autonomous maneuvering capability that provides data.

The company plans to launch tens of thousands more satellites to build coverage, network capacity and speed.

SpaceX, which was founded by billionaire Elon Musk, agreed that its Starlink satellites will autonomously or manually maneuver out of the way of science satellites from NASA and other agency companies “from a collision avoidance perspective.”

In turn, NASA agreed not to maneuver its assets at all in the event of a possible conjunction.

The agreement also requires SpaceX to notify NASA at least one week before each Starlink launch to determine if its mission could create any problems, and SpaceX has agreed to launch Starlink satellites that are not within three miles of the Station. International Space or any other. another NASA spacecraft.

In particular, and as reported in TechCrunch, NASA already has a set of guidelines around the “Conjunction Assessment” that are used to determine the risks of a conjunction.

A “conjunction” in astronomical terms occurs when two astronomical objects appear to be very close together according to the Royal Museums of Greenwich in the UK.


“Effective mitigation is based on coordination between operators, accurate data, a solid technical basis for risk analysis, as well as proactive processes for appropriate actions to mitigate risks,” the statement said. “By working together through this agreement, the approach to collision avoidance can be improved for all users.”

Additionally, NASA says it has worked to support continued growth in America’s commercial space sector through its December release of the “Best Practice Manual for Spacecraft Conjunction Assessment and Collision Prevention.”

The manual was published in an effort to improve global awareness of space activity and share lessons learned from NASA on close approach coordination and mitigation, according to the agency.

“Society depends on space capabilities for global communications, navigation, weather forecasting and much more,” Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in the statement. “With commercial companies launching more and more satellites, it is critical that we increase communications, exchange data and establish best practices to ensure that we all maintain a safe space environment.”

NASA spokesman JD Harrington told Fox News on Friday that the agreement “may serve as a model for information sharing between the US government and other commercial satellite operators.”


Harrington said the agreement could help “improve and promote the practices outlined in the manual.”

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source link