Enlarge / A stack of 60 Starlink satellites launched in 2019.
SpaceX has accused satellite-broadband rival OneWeb of spreading a false story claiming that the businesses’ satellites almost crashed into one another.
In actuality, “[t]he likelihood of collision by no means exceeded the brink for a [collision-avoidance] maneuver, and the satellites wouldn’t have collided even when no maneuver had been carried out,” SpaceX advised the Federal Communications Fee in an ex parte submitting. The submitting describes a gathering that SpaceX and OneWeb representatives had with FCC workers yesterday by which SpaceX stated it “corrected the file concerning latest press reviews concerning bodily coordination between SpaceX and OneWeb.”
The assembly got here in the future after The Wall Road Journal revealed an article titled “Elon Musk’s Satellite tv for pc Web Venture Is Too Dangerous, Rivals Say.” The Journal article described OneWeb’s allegations as follows:
Starlink satellites have come alarmingly near different spacecraft twice within the final two years, together with on April 2, when a Starlink satellite tv for pc prompted one other operated by OneWeb, managed by Indian conglomerate Bharti International and the UK authorities, to make evasive maneuvers, in response to OneWeb and the US Area Command.
Mr. Musk’s satellites are geared up with an AI-powered, automated collision avoidance system. But that system needed to be switched off when a Starlink satellite tv for pc got here inside 190 toes of the rival’s satellite tv for pc this month, in response to OneWeb’s [government affairs chief Chris] McLaughlin.
When contacted by OneWeb, Starlink’s engineers stated they could not do something to keep away from a collision and switched off the collision avoidance system so OneWeb may maneuver across the Starlink satellite tv for pc with out interference, in response to Mr. McLaughlin.
The Journal stated that “SpaceX did not reply to requests for remark” concerning the OneWeb incident and one other occasion from 2019 by which the European Area Company stated it carried out a collision-avoidance maneuver to keep away from a SpaceX satellite tv for pc.
The Journal additionally quoted McLaughlin as saying, “SpaceX has a gung-ho method to area… Each certainly one of our satellites is sort of a Ford Focus—it does the identical factor, it will get examined, it really works—whereas Starlink satellites are like Teslas: They launch them after which they need to improve and repair them, and even exchange them altogether.”
In yesterday’s submitting to the FCC, SpaceX stated that “OneWeb’s head lobbyist not too long ago made demonstrably inaccurate statements to the media about latest coordinations of bodily operations. Particularly, Mr. McLaughlin of OneWeb advised the Wall Road Journal that SpaceX switched off its AI-powered, autonomous collision avoidance system and ‘they could not do something to keep away from a collision.’ Moderately, SpaceX and OneWeb had been working collectively in good religion on the technical stage. As a part of these discussions, OneWeb itself requested that SpaceX flip off the system quickly to permit their maneuver, as agreed by the events.”
SpaceX’s “autonomous collision avoidance system was and stays absolutely purposeful always,” SpaceX additionally wrote.
OneWeb admitted it was incorrect, SpaceX says
OneWeb supplied to retracted its false statements throughout the assembly with SpaceX and the FCC, in response to SpaceX’s recounting of yesterday’s assembly with seven staffers from the fee’s Worldwide Bureau, together with Worldwide Bureau Chief Tom Sullivan and Satellite tv for pc Division Performing Chief Karl Kensinger.
“Regardless of latest reviews on the contrary, the events made clear that there was no ‘shut name’ or ‘close to miss.’ SpaceX and OneWeb agreed that they’d carried out a profitable coordination, leading to a constructive final result,” SpaceX wrote. The SpaceX submitting continued:
SpaceX expressed its disappointment to the Fee that OneWeb’s officers selected to publicly misstate the circumstances of the coordination. Ongoing profitable coordination is dependent upon belief and transparency between the operators and the kinds of techniques used on this case by OneWeb lead to a much less protected area atmosphere as they detract from the technical work wanted to handle a satellite tv for pc constellation safely. SpaceX was due to this fact grateful that OneWeb supplied within the assembly with the Fee to retract its earlier incorrect statements. SpaceX seems to be ahead to listening to affirmation from OneWeb when these retractions have been made.
OneWeb’s deceptive public statements coincide with OneWeb’s intensified efforts to forestall SpaceX from finishing a security improve to its system. For example, instantly after the primary inaccurate quotes got here out in media accounts, OneWeb met with Fee workers and Commissioners demanding unilateral situations positioned on SpaceX’s operations [See OneWeb filing]. Satirically, the situations demanded by OneWeb would make it harder to efficiently coordinate tough operations going ahead, demonstrating extra of a priority with limiting opponents than with a real concern for area security.
We contacted OneWeb about SpaceX’s submitting as we speak and can replace this text if we get a response. There was no OneWeb response to SpaceX’s submitting within the FCC docket as of as we speak.
Minuscule probability of collision
SpaceX’s submitting has an attachment with a truth sheet and timeline describing the incident with OneWeb. It stated that the “latest technical coordination with OneWeb was not an distinctive occasion and the Starlink workforce has efficiently carried out comparable coordinations with different satellite tv for pc proprietor/operators.” The “likelihood of conjunction” was initially estimated at between 1 in 10,000 and 1 in 100,000, SpaceX wrote.
OneWeb contacted SpaceX by way of electronic mail on April 1. “SpaceX responded inside minutes and communicated to OneWeb that Starlink-1546 was/is maneuverable,” SpaceX advised the FCC. Throughout a telephone name the following day, “SpaceX volunteered to carry out a handbook maneuver, however each events agreed to attend for the following CDM [conjunction data message],” SpaceX wrote.
SpaceX and OneWeb had a second name lower than two hours later, by which “SpaceX reiterated its suggestion to attend for one more CDM… earlier than planning a maneuver as a result of SpaceX methods indicated this was the least dangerous method.” Nonetheless, “OneWeb satellites want extra time to coordinate and plan their maneuvers than Starlink satellites require, so OneWeb didn’t wish to wait and selected as a substitute to maneuver OneWeb-0178,” SpaceX wrote. “As a result of OneWeb determined to plan a maneuver, it requested SpaceX to show off Starlink-1546’s autonomous conjunction avoidance system. SpaceX obliged this request and confirmed to OneWeb that the system had been turned off.”
Additional information confirmed that “the likelihood of collision was already under any threshold that required a maneuver and saved dropping,” SpaceX wrote. OneWeb carried out the maneuver on April 3, and the satellites ended up lacking one another by greater than 1,000 meters, SpaceX wrote. The ultimate likelihood of collision was “one in 100 million million million—this was not an in depth name or a close to miss,” SpaceX advised the FCC.