Starlink avoids objects thousands a month – is low Earth orbit overcrowded? – DNyuz

Starlink dodges objects thousands of times a month — is low-Earth orbit too crowded?

Houston, we may have a problem. At least, that’s what some people might start saying very soon if the current trend around low-Earth orbiting objects continues. According to new reports, Starlink satellites performed over 25,000 evasive maneuvers between December 1, 2022, and May 21, 2023. This crazy number of maneuvers surely means that low-Earth orbit has become too crowded, doesn’t it? Not exactly.

In March I talked to Francois Chopard about Earth’s satellite issue . The current low-Earth orbit situation is alarming, but he says the problem can be fixed. Further, the problems surrounding Earth’s orbit becoming crowded comes down to the way these satellites are handled after they cease operations.

Even more intriguing, it’s important to understand the risk associated with SpaceX Starlink satellites. Any collision that occurs in low Earth orbit could be catastrophic. Every collision creates a field of debris, which will make it much more difficult to avoid in the future as low-Earth space becomes increasingly crowded.

That’s why NASA, SpaceX, and others follow strict parameters to determine the risk of a collision and then change their current trajectory based on those parameters. For NASA and many others, the set parameter requires a risk of 1 in 10,000 of two objects colliding for evasive maneuvers to be put into effect. SpaceX goes a step further.

Starlink uses a risk parameter of 1 in 100,000. That means that the chances of Starlink seeing a collision as possible are much higher, which means that we’re going to see more maneuvers as a whole. This does not mean, however, that the low-Earth satellites are unable to function properly.

Considering there are more than 3,500 active Starlink satellites in orbit, as of May of 2023, it isn’t hard to see how they would make so many maneuvers in just six months, or that they may be making those maneuvers when they aren’t even needed. Sure, overcrowding in low-Earth orbit is a concern, but these new Starlink numbers don’t necessarily point toward us hitting a tipping point just yet.

The biggest concern is the amount of debris in space, including old satellites and rocket launch debris. It is a cause for concern that many other companies are planning to use megaconstellations similar to those Starlink uses.

However, Chopard told me in our previous conversation that the issue is not yet out of control. If we ignore the problem, it could get worse and even hamper other missions – such as future deep space exploration. That would be unfortunate.

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