OneWeb and SpaceX, the powerhouses of the Internet satellite industry, had a dangerously close encounter last weekend that was out of this world.
Two satellites from each company were orbiting 190 feet apart on April 4, triggering multiple “red warnings” from the US Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, The Verge reports.
The close call came from OneWeb’s recent March 30 launch, which put 36 satellites into orbit and had to pass through a sea of starlinks to reach the target orbit.
This is the first known collision avoidance event since tech companies started populating space with internet blasting machines – and some may suggest it won’t be the last.
Scroll down for video
OneWeb and SpaceX (pictured), the powerhouses of the internet satellite industry, had a dangerously close encounter last weekend that was out of this world
The event was picked up by Space Force, which alerted OneWeb as soon as red warnings were received.
The US government agency found that the two satellites had a 1.3 percent chance of collision. If they had hit, they would have put hundreds more pieces of space debris into orbit.
Millions of debris pollute space and can travel as fast as a ball that can destroy satellites, telescopes, and spacecraft – and a NASA scientist fears they could eventually cause Kessler syndrome.
This theoretical scenario was proposed in 1978 by NASA scientist Donald Kessler that the density of objects in low-earth orbit could increase to the point where collisions occur that create more space debris, to the point where it is dangerous to humans is to venture out of orbit planet.
Two satellites from each company were orbiting 190 feet apart on April 4, triggering multiple “red warnings” from the US Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron. A OneWeb satellite is shown
Experts have suggested ways to limit the number of satellites in orbit, but regulators have not set an official limit.
In addition, there are no safeguards for companies to ensure that their devices do not meet someone else’s requirements.
When Space Force notified OneWeb that its satellite was heading for a Starlink, the company quickly emailed SpaceX’s Starlink with the hope of moving satellites a safe distance apart.
SpaceX has disabled its AI-powered collision avoidance system so OneWeb can steer its satellite out of the way, OneWeb Prime Minister Chris McLaughlin told The Verge.
The close call was due to OneWeb’s recent launch (pictured) on March 30th, which put 36 satellites into orbit and had to pass through a sea of starlinks to reach the target orbit
OneWeb has 146 satellites in orbit while SpaceX has 1,378 starlinks – and the Elon Musk-owned company has come under fire for flooding the skies.
Communications company Viasat filed for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate SpaceX’s Starlink Internet satellites in December, claiming the constellation was environmentally hazardous.
The document cites a number of ailments, including the failure rate of SpaceX satellites for devices that collide in orbit and the risk of re-entry of pollution.
OneWeb has 146 satellites in orbit while SpaceX has 1,378 star links (pictured) – and the Elon Musk-owned company has come under fire for flooding the skies
However, Musk got wind of the petition and did what most billionaires did – he took to Twitter.
Musk posted a tweet on his page saying, “Starlink” poses a threat to Viasat’s profits, more like that. “
John Janka, Viasat’s chief officer for global government affairs and regulators, told DailyMail.com, “This summer a variety of players in the industry have had serious concerns about the satellite’s orbital debris, space security and interference issues.”
“It’s not just SpaceX, it’s about mega-constellations in general – anyone who suggests putting thousands and tens of thousands of satellites into orbit.”
Another section of Viasat’s petition states: “The system proposed by SpaceX raises significant orbital safety problems.”
Musk’s company plans to finally launch 10,000 new Starlink satellites into orbit over the next 15 years, which Viasat said would densely populate Earth’s orbit.
“That’s roughly the number of satellites that have been launched since the space age in the 1950s,” said Janka.
“If anyone talks about doing this with so many satellites in the next 15 years, the FCC is concerned.”
ELON MUSK’S SPACEX PUTS BROADBAND INTERNET INTO THE WORLD WITH ITS STARLINK CONSTELLATION OF SATELLITES
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched the fifth batch of its Starlink space internet satellites – 300 total.
They form a constellation of thousands of satellites designed to provide low-cost broadband Internet services from orbit.
The constellation, informally known as Starlink, is under development at the SpaceX facilities in Redmond, Washington.
Your goal is to beam super-fast internet from space into your home.
While satellite internet has been around for a while, it has suffered from high latency and unreliable connections.
Starlink is different. According to SpaceX, a “constellation” of satellites in low-earth orbit would provide fast, cable-like internet worldwide.
The billionaire’s company wants to create the global system to generate more money.
It could also help fund a future city on Mars.
Helping humanity reach the red planet is one of Musk’s long-established goals and has inspired him to launch SpaceX.
The company recently filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to put 4,425 satellites into orbit above Earth – three times as many as are currently in service.
“Once the SpaceX system is fully deployed, it will traverse virtually every part of the earth’s surface and therefore essentially have the ability to provide ubiquitous global service,” the company said.
“Any point on the earth’s surface will see a SpaceX satellite at any one time.”
The network will provide internet access to the US and the rest of the world, it added.
It’s expected to take more than five years and $ 9.8 billion (£ 7.1 billion) in investment, although satellite internet has proven to be an expensive market in the past and analysts believe the final bill will be higher.
Musk likened the project to “rebuilding the Internet in space” as it would reduce reliance on the existing network of undersea fiber optic cables that crisscross the planet.
In the US, the FCC welcomed the program to help more people connect to the Internet.