SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are responsible for over half of all near-collisions in space, according to the head of the Astronautics Research Group.
Craft from the space company, which was founded by Elon Musk, are involved in approximately 1,600 close encounters every week says Hugh Lewis, the head of the research group. A close encounter is when two craft pass within one kilometre of each other. Excluding the company’s own craft, Starlink passes a craft 500 times every week.
Lewis made the estimates based on data from the Socrates (Satellite Orbital Conjunction Reports Assessing Threatening Encounters in Space) database, which tracks bodies circling the Earth and models their trajectories to avoid crashes.
“I have looked at the data going back to May 2019 when Starlink was first launched to understand the burden of these megaconstellations,” Lewis told Space.
“Since then, the number of encounters picked up by the Socrates database has more than doubled and now we are in a situation where Starlink accounts for half of all encounters.”
Once Starlink launches its full 12,000-strong satellite network, it will be involved in 90 per cent of all close approaches, it is estimated. Currently there are only 1,700 in space. SpaceX did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment by time of publication.