NASA and SpaceX have announced signature on a joint agreement to share information to maintain and improve space safety. This agreement will allow for coordination, data sharing, cooperation and arranges responsibilities and procedures for flight safety coordination. The focus is conjunction avoidance and launch collision avoidance between SpaceX Starlink satellites and NASA spacecraft, including rideshare missions. “Society depends on space-based capabilities for global communications, navigation, weather forecasting, and much more,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “With commercial companies launching more and more satellites, it’s critical we increase communications, exchange data, and establish best practices to ensure we all maintain a safe space environment.”
Starlink spacecraft have global navigation satellite service receivers that anticipate orbital parameters, utilizing autonomous maneuvering capability that provide data for data exchange. SpaceX has agreed the Starlink satellites will ensure that missions of NASA science satellites and other assets are uninterrupted from collisions.
The only way to effectively mitigate these collision risks, is by inter-operator coordination, accurate data and sound technically basis for risk analysis. All users in this agreement will have iimproved collision avoidance.
Through this agreement, NASA supports growth in the U.S. commercial space sector through release of the “Spacecraft Conjunction Assessment and Collision Avoidance Best Practices Handbook,” where the agency issued in December 2020 improves global awareness of space activity and share NASA lessons learned in regards to close approach coordination and mitigation. The handbook can be found here.