SpaceX and NASA sign landmark deal to avoid crashing into each in space – ‘It’s critical’

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SpaceX has agreed a deal with NASA to improve space safety, and to keep each other informed about planned missions and spacecraft locations. NASA admitted the joint agreement was critical, as commercial companies – like SpaceX – are launching more and more satellites into orbit.

Both NASA and SpaceX regularly work together anyway, including for the Crew Dragon flight last year.

The joint agreement formalises their commitment to maintaining best practice.

SpaceX’s continued rise in the space industry has forced the agencies to keep tabs on each other’s work.

With an ever-growing number of satellites and rockets in orbit, it subsequently increases the risk of collisions.

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The majority of the agreement focused on “conjunction avoidance” in space, a NASA statement revealed.

A conjunction is where two objects in space are moving at a very high speed, and end up coming into close contact.

SpaceX agreed to move its Starlink satellites, if a conjunction has been predicted with NASA spacecraft.

NASA, meanwhile, won’t be manually manoeuvering its own spacecraft out of the way, and their own missions will go on uninterrupted.

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A NASA statement read: “NASA and SpaceX have signed a joint agreement to formalise both parties’ strong interest in the sharing of information to maintain and improve space safety.

“This agreement enables a deeper level of coordination, cooperation, and data sharing, and defines the arrangement, responsibilities, and procedures for flight safety coordination.

“The focus of the agreement is on conjunction avoidance and launch collision avoidance between NASA spacecraft and the large constellation of SpaceX Starlink satellites, as well as related rideshare missions.

“Both NASA and SpaceX benefit from this enhanced interaction by ensuring all parties involved are fully aware of the exact location of spacecraft and debris in orbit.”

The agreement to maintain good, quality communication between the space agencies is “critical”, according to NASA’s acting Administrator, Steve Jurczyk.

Everyday life on Earth relies on data from satellites, so it’s crucial that NASA and SpaceX work in tandem.

He said: “Society depends on space-based capabilities for global communications, navigation, weather forecasting, and much more.

“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.”

SpaceX currently has more than 1,000 small satellites orbiting the Earth.

Starlink now serves more than 10,000 customers, and the company is already in the process of expanding their remit.

Starlink’s internet service provides data speeds from between 50 and 150 megabits a second.

SpaceX’s Chief Executive Officer, Elon Musk, has previously revealed that he expected the service to double its top speed to 300Mbps by the end of the year.

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