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GMV and Astroscale UK spearhead new ESA initiative for improved satellite collision avoidance
The introduction of this alternative commanding path through the Galileo system marks a creative and efficient use of existing space infrastructure to enhance satellite safety in an increasingly crowded LEO environment.
GMV and Astroscale UK spearhead new ESA initiative for improved satellite collision avoidance
by Hugo Ritmico
Madrid, Spain (SPX) Jan 22, 2024

In a significant advancement in satellite collision avoidance technology, GMV, in collaboration with Astroscale UK, has been awarded a new activity under the European Space Agency's (ESA) CREAM (Collision Risk and Automated Mitigation) cornerstone. This initiative, an extension of the CREAM#2 activity, aims to develop an alternative commanding path for late collision avoidance maneuvers (CAM), leveraging the capabilities of the Galileo Return Link Service.

The need for this development arises from the increasing congestion in low earth orbits (LEO), which has led to a higher frequency of collision avoidance maneuvers. These maneuvers are critical for maintaining satellite integrity but come with considerable costs in operational efforts and propellant usage. They have a direct impact on reducing the operational lifetime and affecting the nominal mission of satellites. Therefore, satellite operators often delay commanding avoidance maneuvers until absolutely necessary to reassess risks and prevent unwarranted actions.

Traditionally, communicating with satellites in LEO for collision avoidance has been constrained by the limited availability of ground station access, generally only a few times per day. This limitation forces operators to wait until a few hours before a potential collision, utilizing the last available passes of ground stations, to command the avoidance maneuver.

The novel solution proposed by GMV addresses this constraint by providing an alternative pathway for late commanding of maneuvers. This approach allows for triggering the maneuver much closer to the time of conjunction. Consequently, it is expected to lead to a significant reduction in the number of collision maneuvers required, thereby reducing propellant consumption and extending the satellites' operational lifetime.

This innovative solution utilizes the Galileo Signal-in-Space (SiS) and its Return Link Service, offering a continuous alternative communication path. This system enables the relay of collision avoidance maneuver decisions to satellites equipped with onboard Galileo-compatible GNSS receivers. The use of the Galileo system in this manner is not only novel but also potentially synergistic with other space situational awareness (SSA) services like the EU SST, paving the way for a unique, globally available collision avoidance service in the future.

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