The finer details of what led to the collision are still unclear a decade later, Weeden said, which speaks to the messy realities of observing and controlling objects hundreds of miles away using math (playing "billiards in space," as Weeden put it in his article). The uncertainties and communication breakdown that led to the ESA thrusting out of the way of a Starlink satellite is a reflection of these difficulties.
"We tend to think of the probability as astronomically low, and it is pretty low, but given enough rolls of the dice it will eventually happen."
According to Christiansen, NASA and commercial operators are not all that interested in testing for collisions with large objects such as other satellites. "It doesn’t happen very often, so NASA chooses to spend their money on things that happen more often than not," Christiansen said.
"They have propellant tanks. They need shielding, and it requires more testing"