ISS swerves to avoid debris from Russian missile

In November, missile test prompted ISS crew to take emergency shelter amid fear of collision with debris

Why Space Junk Is A Compounding Issue For Missions, Astronauts

The International Space Station had to conduct an avoidance maneuveur on Thursday to avoid a piece of space debris from Russia’s missile tests in November that took out one of their own satellites.

Nasa said the space station’s thrusters fired for about 5 minutes in a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) on Thursday to swerve away from the predicted track of a fragment of “Russian Cosmos 1408 debris.”

While the crew was “never in any danger,” and the maneuver did not impact astronauts’ routine operations, the American space agency said the fragments could have passed within about half a mile (0.8km) from the station.

The shrapnels are from a weapons test that Russia conducted in November 2021 in which it took out an old defunct Soviet-era satellite, launching a cloud of over 1,500 pieces of debris through space.

Following the missile test, both US astronauts and Russia’s own cosmonauts aboard the ISS were forced to take emergency shelter in the orbiting laboratory amid fear of collision with the debris cloud.

Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson had condemned the anti-satellite weapons test, calling it a “reckless,” “dangerous,” “destabilising” action.

“With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts,” Mr Nelson had said.

In April, US vice president Kamala Harris said “more than 1,600 pieces of debris” have been identified from the Russian test, presenting a risk to the safety of American astronauts, satellites, and the country’s “growing commercial presence” in space.

Experts say most of the debris would likely be gone within five years, but add that some bits could stay in orbit for a decade.

Speaking at an event at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, Ms Harris said in April that the US “commits not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing,” calling on other nations to “establish this as a new international norm for responsible behavior in space.”

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