Science

Russia moves International Space Station away from US rocket debris in 1990s – second concern about space debris this week

The International Space Station, photographed by SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavor during flight on November 8, 2021.Pot

The International Space Station The ISS changed course on Friday to avoid a possible collision with a piece of an old Pegasus missile.

A piece of that old rocket, which crashed two years after the United States launched it into Earth orbit in 1994, was due to pass near the International Space Station on Friday morning. NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos monitored the room throughout Monday and finally decided they had to move the space station.

About two hours before the debris passed the International Space Station, at 2:58 a.m. ET, Roscosmos set fire to the engines of the cargo ship Progress, which is docked at the International Space Station, propelling the laboratory into orbit. close to Earth. The two-and-a-half minute engine combustion lowered the space station’s altitude by 310 meters, or about 1,000 feet, and put it on a new path, out of range of the rocket segment.

Because the prediction of the trajectory of debris in Earth’s orbit is not accurate, mission controllers regularly move the International Space Station when objects are expected to pass nearby. Friday was the second time the International Space Station had to change course to avoid debris this year, including once last month when Russia’s station drifted away from a piece of garbage. In 2020, an orbiting laboratory must dodge the wreckage three times.

During its two decades in orbit around Earth, the International Space Station has moved to avoid space debris at least 30 times.

Space debris collided with the space shuttle Endeavor’s cooler. The intake hole is approximately 0.25 inches wide. The outlet hole is twice the size.Pot

NASA and Roscosmos have good reason to be cautious. Chunks of space debris orbit the planet at about 10 times the speed of a bullet, so a small piece of metal hitting the International Space Station can poke a hole in it; It has happened on several occasions.

The images show debris damage to a robotic arm on the International Space Station on May 28, 2021.NASA / Canadian Space Agency

according to NASA. Even paint stains orbiting Earth have damaged spacecraft windows.

The story continues

A cut in the window of the dome of the International Space Station of a small piece of space debris, photographed by European astronaut Tim Peake in 2016.European Space Agency / NASA

Space debris is an integral part of life in Earth’s orbit, and the problem worsens each year as old satellites and rockets disintegrate, collide or explode during antisatellite missile tests. Each of these events can generate thousands of debris.

Every major space nation has contributed to the problem, whether it’s leaving old spacecraft in orbit or launching rockets at satellites.

It’s been a long month in space

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft and the Nauka module on the International Space Station high above Earth on September 15, 2021.European Space Agency / NASA – T. Biscuits

Friday’s maneuver is not uncommon; It’s not even the first junk space alert this week.

NASA postponed a spacewalk Tuesday after finding debris that could pass near the International Space Station, while two astronauts were said to be outside to replace a broken antenna system. With no time to assess the risks, NASA rescheduled the spacewalk, then determined that the transit of space debris would not pose a risk to the astronauts.

Two weeks ago, on November 15, Russia detonated one of its old satellites with a rocket, doubling the amount of debris orbiting the International Space Station, according to a NASA official. NASA said it had no indication that Tuesday’s debris came from the eruption in Russia, but did not rule out the possibility.

The LeoLabs dashboard shows more than 200 pieces of debris that the company is tracking from an anti-satellite missile test in Russia on December 3, 2021.Lyolas

Junk space is also a problem for private companies. Elon Musk said this week that SpaceX has altered the orbit of some of its Starlink satellites to avoid debris.

NASA doesn’t clean up old space junk

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson criticized Russia for its November 15 missile test. Link It’s “irresponsible”, “reckless” and “dangerous”.

But the United States created thousands of space junk orbiting Earth, including the rocket piece that threatened the International Space Station on Friday and the remnants of a 2008 missile attack that destroyed an old reconnaissance satellite. India and China are other notable culprits in the space waste cases, both of which have sent satellites into space.

Meanwhile, parts of dead American missiles and satellites from the 1990s continue to orbit the Earth. January report From NASA’s Office of the Inspector General, it found that NASA’s efforts to stop adding debris to Earth’s orbit “were not enough” to avoid cascading collisions in space. The agency’s efforts have focused on ensuring that new rockets and satellites burn out in Earth orbit as soon as they become unusable, rather than lose control around Earth.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) said NASA should also focus on cleaning up existing space debris. According to the report, the agency has made “little or no progress” in developing technologies to remove debris from orbit.

By leaving old rockets and stray satellites in orbit, the OIG said, NASA is contributing to the problem.

“Protecting the expanding space environment is essential,” the report concludes. “The services that billions of people depend on every day, such as weather forecasting, communications and global positioning systems, require a stable spatial environment. “

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