A bug in SpaceX’s communication system kept the company in the dark about potential satellite collision

An artistic rendering of the Aeolus satellite that ESA moved on Monday, September 2nd. | Image: ESA

On Monday, a European satellite changed its position in orbit to avoid a potential collision with one of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites — one of 60 probes the company launched in May to beam internet coverage down to Earth. The European Space Agency (ESA), which operates the satellite, performed the maneuver after calculating a higher than usual probability that the two satellites might run into each other. SpaceX did not move its satellite, blaming a computer bug that prevented proper communication with ESA.

Maneuvers like this aren’t uncommon. Every now and then, satellite operators will slightly alter a spacecraft’s position if they calculate an uncomfortable chance that their vehicle might hit someone else’s vehicle. No one wants a…

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