Bad news: There’scoming in too close to the International Space Station. Good news: It’s been spotted, and the ISS will perform an evasive maneuver to stay safe.
Russian space agency Roscosmos announced on Wednesday that an automated warning system had spotted a piece of space junk calculated to come within about 2,000 feet (600 meters) of the ISS on Thursday, US time (1 a.m. UTC on Friday).
Roscosmos specialists have calculated an orbital correction. A Russian Progress cargo spacecraft docked to the ISS will fire its engines later today for 361 seconds, or just a hair over six minutes, to move the space station out of the way.
The debris is from Fengyun-1C, a weather satellite deliberately destroyed by China in an antisatellite test in 2007. A paper on the resulting debris cloud estimated that the satellite broke into around 4,000 objects that were big enough to track, as well as many thousands more smaller pieces.
The ISS has had to dodge space junk before. Antriggered a similar evasive maneuver. In May 2021, a routine inspect revealed that a different and , leaving a visible mark.
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Space junk is a growing problem as defunct satellites, bits of spacecraft and leftover rocket parts clog orbit. NASA has said the ISS typically has to dodge space debris about once a year on average: “If another object is projected to come within a few kilometers of the International Space Station (ISS), the ISS will normally maneuver away from the object if the chance of a collision exceeds 1 in 10,000.”
There are currently three astronauts on the ISS: Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos and NASA’s Mark Vande Hei. Four other astronauts recently returned from orbit with the. The SpaceX Crew-3 mission is scheduled to launch later on Wednesday.
As morearound Earth, the junk issue will continue to grow while efforts to clean it up ( and ) are coming along slowly.