Following the near miss of ESA’s Aeolus with one of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite. ESA is calling for strict space and communications regulations. Space is getting congested and especially after Google, Amazon, Facebook and SpaceX have plans to launch Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites constellations that will contribute to thousands of space objects.
SpaceX deployed 60 Starlink satellites earlier this year and plans to launch around 2000 satellites. This mega constellation is meant for a satellite network to deliver broadband internet access to Earth. Despite the vastness of space as claimed by the companies launching the constellation SpaceX and ESA got into a situation where ESA’s Aeolus had to perform a collision avoidance maneuver and no satellites were harmed. If this collision would have taken place then the amount of space debris would have been unimaginable.
SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk said in a statement citing a “bug” in its on-call paging system that prevented officials from seeing the ESA’s messages. SpaceX last communicated with ESA several days earlier when the probability of collision was minimal. All these communications were taking place over email exchanges. ESA enforces that this is an extremely inefficient mode of communication to manage space traffic in the age of mega-constellations. It may be the right time to start discussing this issue before all the mega-constellations are launched.