NASA and SpaceX have signed a special information sharing agreement to ensure that Stalink satellites do not collide with other objects orbiting the Earth’s orbit.
The 13-page agreement replaces the standard Conformity Assessment (CA) process and allows for deeper collaboration between the National Aeronautics Administration and Space and SpaceX. It is a non-repayment agreement, meaning it is designed to be mutually beneficial and not for profit.
The agreement structured around NASA maintains its intended path with Starlink satellites ready to move automatically around NASA objects. In rare cases where Starlink cannot move, NASA will do all it can to avoid an accident.
“The veracity and timeliness of the communications between the two parties is crucial to maintaining safe on-orbit activity,” as stated in the agreement.
With Elon Musk planning to send 12,000 satellites into space to create this low-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, ensuring the number of tractors that do not cross paths will be critical to survival. To date, SpaceX has launched 1,325 Starlink satellites into orbit.
NASA will also provide technical support to Starlink, particularly in terms of limiting photometric brightness, which is a reflection on a flat or uniform surface.
SpaceX must tell NASA whether Starlink satellites are within five kilometers below or above the International Space Station, or ISS. This is, of course, to prevent collisions with the ISS, which would be dangerous given that people could be on board.
NASA puts a lot of burden on SpaceX to make sure that accidents don’t happen. And considering all LEO satellite constellation companies have gone bankrupt, Elon Musk has safety and profit ahead in mind.
At the moment, Starlink only provides appropriate coverage for those in high bandwidth, both above Seattle and Canada. But Starlink hopes to cover most of the world by the end of 2021. SpaceX plans to complete Starlink’s internet constel by sometime next year.