ESA re-routes satellite to avoid SpaceX collision risk

SpaceX's Mars Starship prototype "Starhopper" hovers over its launchpad during a test flight in Boca Chica, Texas, U.S. August 27, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 04 September 2019
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ESA re-routes satellite to avoid SpaceX collision risk

  • SpaceX says the Starlink constellation could eventually reach 12,000 satellites

PARIS: The European Space Agency said Tuesday it had altered the trajectory of one of its observation satellites to avoid a possible collision with a craft operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
“@ESA ‘s #Aeolus Earth observation satellite fired its thrusters, moving it off a collision course with a @SpaceX satellite in their #Starlink constellation,” the agency’s official Twitter account said.
It said its scientists decided that the safest plan of action was to boost the altitude of the craft, adding that the maneuver on Monday was “first time ever” it had acted to avoid an active satellite.
“The vast majority of ESA avoidance maneuvers are the result of dead satellites or fragments from previous collisions,” it said.
A SpaceX spokesperson said a bug in its on-call operating system prevented the team from seeing that the risk of a collision with the ESA craft may have increased.
“Had the Starlink operator seen the correspondence, we would have coordinated with ESA to determine best approach with their continuing with their maneuver or our performing a maneuver,” the spokesperson said.
SpaceX, founded by billionaire Musk in 2002, this year launched a constellation of 60 broadband-beaming satellites, a project known as Starlink.
The initial launch prompted astronomers to raise the alarm over the risk of a possible collision and briefly threw up a spate of UFO sightings over the Netherlands.
SpaceX says the Starlink constellation could eventually reach 12,000 satellites.
Faced with an increase of privately run craft, which currently number around 20,000 in Earth’s atmosphere, the ESA will hold a meeting in November focussed on space security.
It launched Aeolus, the first satellite mission to capture data on global wind patterns, last year.


Huawei in public test as it unveils sanction-hit phone

Updated 19 September 2019

Huawei in public test as it unveils sanction-hit phone

  • Hit by US sanctions, Huawei's Mate 30 will not be allowed to use Google’s Play Store
  • Household-name services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Maps will be unavailable.
BERLIN: Chinese tech giant Huawei launches its latest high-end smartphone in Munich on Thursday, the first that could be void of popular Google apps because of US sanctions.
Observers are asking whether a phone without the Silicon Valley software that users have come to depend on can succeed, or whether Huawei will have found a way for buyers to install popular apps despite the constraints.
The company has maintained a veil of secrecy over its plans, set to be dropped at a 1200 GMT press conference revealing the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro models.
Huawei, targeted directly by the United States as part of a broader trade conflict with Beijing, was added to a “blacklist” in Washington in May.
Since then, it has been illegal for American firms to do business with the Chinese firm, suspected of espionage by President Donald Trump and his administration.
As a result, the new Mate will run on a freely available version of Android, the world’s most-used phone operating system that is owned by the search engine heavyweight.
While Mate 30 owners will experience little difference in the use of the system, the lack of Google’s Play Store — which provides access to hundreds of thousands of third-party apps and games as well as films, books and music — could hobble them.
Household-name services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Maps will be unavailable.
The tech press reports that this yawning gap in functionality has left some sellers reluctant to stock the new phones, fearing a wave of rapid-fire returns from dissatisfied customers.
Huawei president Richard Yu said at Berlin’s IFA electronics fair this month that his engineers found a “very simple” way to install the hottest apps without going via the Play Store.
Huawei could offer its own app store in a preliminary version, setting itself up as a competitor to the dominant Apple and Google offerings, observers speculate.
Over the longer term, the company could build out a similar “ecosystem” of devices, apps and services as the Silicon Valley companies that would bind users more closely to it.
The world’s second-largest smartphone maker after Samsung, Huawei earlier this month presented its proprietary operating system HarmonyOS, a potential replacement for Android.
The Mate 30 will not yet have HarmonyOS installed.
But it could make for a new round in the decades-old “OS wars” between Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac OS, then Android versus Apple’s iOS.
Meanwhile, Eric Xu, current holder of Huawei’s rotating chief executive chair, has urged Europe to foster an alternative to Google and Apple.
That could provide an opening for Huawei to build up Europe’s market of 500 million well-off consumers as a stronghold against American rivals.
“If Europe had its own ecosystem for smart devices, Huawei would use it... that would resolve the problem of European digital dependency” on the United States, Xu told German business daily Handelsblatt.
He added that his company would be prepared to invest in developing such joint European-Chinese projects.