Space station dodges space debris from decades-old Pegasus rocket

The International Space Station dodged a fragment of a decades-old rocket body early Friday, continuing a stretch of space debris threats to the orbiting laboratory.

On Friday (December 3) around 3 a.m. EST (0800 GMT), a Russian cargo ship docked at the International Space Station fired for just under three minutes to lower the facility’s orbit and ensure it would pass safely. safe from debris. according to statements by NASA and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos.

In a tweet posted on Wednesday (December 1), Roscosmos noted the risk posed by the rocket fragment, which is estimated to pass as close as 3.4 miles (5.4 kilometers) from the space station.

Related: Worst Space Debris Events of All Time

Just the day before the alert was posted, on Tuesday (November 30), NASA was forced to delay a spacewalk scheduled for later in the day due to debris concerns. The agency has not specified what the debris represents, but NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron were able to make their excursion on Thursday (December 2).

The seven astronauts currently living and working on the space station faced an even more serious space debris scare a few weeks ago. On November 15, the crew was forced to take refuge in the two passenger spacecraft currently docked to the space station during two close passes with orbital debris.

That debris comes from a Russian anti-satellite test conducted on one of its own missing satellites; Fragments of the incident could threaten astronauts at the station for years to come, experts have said.

However, today’s threat took much longer to develop. According to a NASA statement, the debris called Object 39915, was created in 1996, when the upper stage of a Pegasus rocket that had been launched two years earlier broke.

The evasive maneuver should not affect the next scheduled launch to the International Space Station. On Wednesday (December 8), a Russian Soyuz capsule will take off with a veteran cosmonaut, a Japanese billionaire and his production assistant; The trio are expected to spend about 12 days in space, including more than a week aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@ or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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