Operators of satellite constellations are constantly forced to move their satellites because of encounters with other spacecraft and pieces of space junk. And, thanks to SpaceX's Starlink satellites, the number of such dangerous approaches will continue to grow, according to estimates based on available data.
SpaceX's Starlink satellites alone are involved in about 1,600 close encounters between two spacecraft every week, according to Hugh Lewis, the head of the Astronautics Research Group at the University of Southampton, U.K. These encounters include situations when two spacecraft pass within a distance of 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) from each other.
Lewis, Europe's leading expert on space debris, makes regular estimates of the situation in orbit based on data from the Socrates (Satellite Orbital Conjunction Reports Assessing Threatening Encounters in Space ) database. This tool, managed by Celestrack, provides information about satellite orbits and models their trajectories into the future to assess collision risk.
Lewis publishes regular updates on Twitter and has seen a worrying trend in the data that reflects the fast deployment of the Starlink constellation.