Space junk is causing problems for the International Space Station (ISS). Last week, for the second time NASA postponed a scheduled spacewalk due to the safety threat posed by nearby space debris.
On November 15th Russia performed an anti-satellite missile test by blowing up one of its own satellites with a kinetic missile. The destroyed satellite was orbiting in close proximity to the ISS. And the explosion left at least 1,700 pieces of trackable debris. And there were also thousands of fragments too small to be tracked.
On November 16th, astronauts aboard the ISS were awakened by NASA. NASA’s mission control informed them that Russia had conducted an ASAT test. There was a discussion of evacuating the ISS station and potentially returning to Earth. And ultimately it was decided the astronauts were to shelter-in-place.
Space Junk strikes again
For the second time in two weeks, plans on the ISS were interrupted by space junk.
Last week astronauts Kayla Barron and Thomas Marshburn were preparing to exit the station through the airlock. They needed to replace an antenna on the exterior of the station. NASA put an emergency halt to the mission.
NASA posted about the event claiming they needed time to “properly assess the risk” posed by the debris. So the space agency decided to postpone the spacewalk until further notice.
From the ISS Astronaut Mark Vande Hei, assured mission control, “It’s just real life, this is how things work out sometimes, and I’m really glad you fellows are looking out for our safety.”
It would have been the fifth time Marshburn took a spacewalk. And the first time for Barron.
The source of the debris is not confirmed. But it may be the lingering effects of the Russian ASAT test. It is noted that thousands of dangerous fragments in a Russian debris cloud are still floating around.
To add to the problem it was widely reported by international sources that on Friday the ISS had to swerve to avoid 1990s debris from an old US Pegasus rocket.
NASA did not reveal the source of the space junk of any of the incidents.
And the agency insists that the delays will not have any big impact on the station. “The space station schedule and operations are able to easily accommodate the delay of the spacewalk,” NASA posted.
In the meantime, almost 30,000 pieces of orbital debris, or “space junk,” are tracked by the Department of Defense’s global Space Surveillance Network (SSN).