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AST SpaceMobile and NASA sign deal to improve spaceflight safety

AST SpaceMobile will collaborate with NASA’s Conjunction Assessment Risk Analysis programme on spaceflight safety practices.

NASA and AST & Science, a subsidiary of AST SpaceMobile, Inc., have signed a joint agreement to formalise both parties’ interest in the sharing of information to maintain and improve space safety.

This agreement enables a deeper level of coordination, cooperation, and data sharing, and defines the arrangement, responsibilities, and procedures for flight safety coordination. The focus of the agreement is on conjunction avoidance and launch collision avoidance between NASA spacecraft and AST SpaceMobile’s test satellite, BlueWalker 3, currently in orbit, including the company’s planned constellation of large satellites. A conjunction is defined as a close approach between two objects in space, usually at a very high speed.

Commenting on the agreement, NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana said: “Safety is one of NASA’s core goals – in the workplace, in our mission operations, and in our responsibility as global citizens. We are always looking for opportunities to improve our safety, and by working more closely together with AST SpaceMobile, we can mitigate collisions that might otherwise adversely impact our mission success.”

AST SpaceMobile’s spacecraft, BlueWalker 3 test satellite and the BlueBird constellation, are equipped with a high impulse, low thrust manoeuvring system that may require complex risk mitigation manoeuvre plans. Both NASA and AST SpaceMobile benefit from this enhanced interaction by ensuring all parties involved are fully aware of the exact location of spacecraft and debris in orbit resulting in a safer space environment for all.

NASA and the Department of Defense have decades of experience in proactively managing collision risks, as well as potential impacts. Effective mitigation relies on inter-operator coordination, accurate data, a sound technical basis for risk analysis, as well as proactive processes for appropriate actions to mitigate risks. By working together through this agreement, the approach to collision avoidance can be improved for all users.

In addition to this agreement, NASA is supporting growth in the US commercial space sector through the release of the Spacecraft Conjunction Assessment and Collision Avoidance Best Practices Handbook, which the agency issued in December 2020 to improve global awareness of space activity and to share NASA lessons learned regarding close approach coordination and mitigation.