The European Space Agency (ESA) had to maneuver one of its scientific satellites out of the way of a SpaceX Starlink satellite on Monday. Tech writer Andy Ihnatko joined Boston Public Radio Friday to explain the interstellar events.

"Starlink is Elon Musk's SpaceX project to ... basically create an internet service that covers the entire planet," he said. "It would consist of 12,000 communication satellites that are low in orbit, so that ground stations can communicate with them. Right now they only have 60 up. Elon still says that they'll have all 12,000 up by the end of next year."

Even with just 60 satellites — Musk says all 12,000 will be up by the end of next year — they have already led to a near-collision, Ihnatko said.

"They almost collided with a ESA scientific satellite that is an Earth observation satellite," he said.

The U.S. Airforce's 18th Space Control Squadron — which tracks every object in orbit — alerted both SpaceX and the ESA about the potential collision, and the ESA ultimately rerouted their satellite, Ihnatko said. SpaceX had a bug in its system which prevented it from changing its satellite's movement, he added.

Eventually, space agencies and companies working with satellites hope to make it easier to avoid collisions.

"They want to have these satellites make autonomous decisions, and between the two of them negotiate a safe path between the two," Ihnatko said.