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The International Space Station fired its thrusters to maneuver out of the way of a piece of Russian space junk, NASA said late Monday.
The space agency said in a news release that the ISS performed a five-minute, five-second burn to avoid part of Russia’s Cosmos 1408 satellite, which the country destroyed in a weapons test last November.
NASA officials have warned in advance of the dangers of debris proliferation in space due to the dramatic increase in the number of satellites in orbit and various other cases. governments deliberately destroy satellites and create new debris plumes.
The space station conducted a “Predetermined Debris Avoidance Maneuver,” or PDAM, to give the ISS “an additional distance measure of a piece of Russian Cosmos 1408 debris,” the space agency said.
“The launch of the propellant occurred at 20:25 EDT and the maneuver did not affect station operations. Without the maneuver, the fragment was expected to pass within about three kilometers of the station.”
The burn raised the space station’s altitude by 2/10 of a mile, according to the space agency.
On November 15, 2021, Cosmos 1408, a defunct satellite, was destroyed, creating a debris cloud including 1,500 traceable pieces of space debris.
The US Space Command said Russia tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite, or DA-ASAT, missile and strongly condemned the anti-satellite test, calling it a “reckless and dangerous act” and behavior it “will not tolerate”. international interests at risk.
The ISS was forced to perform a similar maneuver to avoid debris from anti-satellite tests in June. In January, a piece of debris from that test came within striking distance of a Chinese satellite, in an encounter the Chinese government called “extremely dangerous.”
The ISS typically has to change orbit to avoid space junk once a year, moving away from the object if the chance of collision exceeds one in 10,000, according to NASA.
Invisible in the night sky, there are hundreds of millions of debris objects around our planet. This debris consists of fragments of old satellites and entire defunct satellites and rocket bodies.
According to a 2021 report by NASA, at least 26,000 pieces of space junk orbiting Earth are softball-sized or larger, large enough to damage a satellite; More than 500,000 debris are the size of marbles, capable of damaging spacecraft; while “more than 100 million pieces are the size of a grain of salt that can pierce a space suit.”
As these fragments collide with each other, they can create more fragments of smaller orbital debris.
Russia said earlier this year it plans to withdraw from the International Space Station and end its decades-long partnership with NASA in orbit, which is due to retire by 2031.