Space Debris Force International Space Station to Make Emergency Maneuvers

Space Debris
Photo : Sierra Nevada Space Systems

Space debris refers to useless objects in Earth's orbit. They're also known as space waste or space garbage. These objects have no useful function in space. Most of them are breakups from spacecraft and other rocket bodies. These fragments are a major problem for spacecraft. If they come into contact with spacecraft, they can cause serious damage.

ISS dodges space debris

Earlier, NASA reported that ISS had to dodge space debris. The space station made emergency maneuvers to avoid a collision. This precautionary measure was necessary for the Space Station. Astronauts aboard the Space Station moved to the Soyuz spacecraft for safety purposes. The astronauts carried out the "avoidance maneuver" to ensure the safety of the ISS. The maneuver is part of ISS' program to protect itself from debris. The Space Station has three astronauts onboard. Two of them are Russian and one American. 

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ISS has a system that can track objects approaching it. It then maneuvers to avoid collision with such objects. The system relies on data from the U.S. space surveillance network (SSN). The SSN usually tracks and catalogs these objects. ISS uses GPS to track its position accurately. This reduces the number of required maneuvers. Space debris can pass within several kilometers from the station. However, safety precautions have to be taken. This is why the ISS trajectory was changed. The Space Station was moved away from the Space debris.

Astronauts Aboard ISS Relocate to the Soyuz spacecraft 

Three astronauts moved to the Soyuz spacecraft during the maneuver. The three relocated for easy evacuation. NASA chief Jim Bridenstine made a statement on the incident. In one of the tweets, he said, "Maneuver Burn complete. The astronauts are coming out of safe haven". The Space Station orbits at a speed of 27,568 km/h. It's located 420 kilometers above the Earth. The high velocity can cause damage to the Space Station. Even small debris can damage a solar panel. Such maneuvers are necessary on a regular basis. ISS has done 25 such maneuvers between 1999 and 2018. 

Space debris problems

Space debris has become a serious problem on Earth's orbit. About 129 million pieces of space debris are on Earth's orbit. Nearly 34,000 of this space debris is more than 4 inches. This is according to estimates by the European Space Agency. Space debris can cause serious damage to the Space Station. Even tiny debris can cause damage. This is why evasive maneuvers have to be done. The goal is to protect ISS from serious damage.  

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The Space Station made the evasive action today. It did a progress burn for 150-seconds. The maneuver boosted the station above the trajectory. The incident occurred at 6:21 p.m. EDT (2221 GMT).

The Space Station has made three maneuvers in 2020 alone. However, Space debris has become a big problem. NASA chief Jim Bridenstine made a tweet on the same. He stressed that "debris is getting worse!" In January 2012 there was a similar incident. It involved space debris from the 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test. The Space Station fired its thrusters to avoid a collision. The space debris came from a Chinese satellite.  The Fengyun 1C satellite was destroyed intentionally by China. 

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