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International Space Station forced to carry out emergency manoeuvre to dodge debris

Adam Smith
·2-min read

The International Space Station had to execute an avoidance maneuver to ensure it was safe from an unidentified object moving through space.

The “unknown piece of space debris” moved within kilometres of the ISS, Nasa reported in a press release on 22 September.

The space station had to use the Russian resupply spacecraft Progress to move it out of the way of the debris.

Progress was docked to the “aft end” (the rear) of the Zvezda service module at the time.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the Expedition 63 crew will relocate to their Soyuz spacecraft until the debris has passed by the station”, the agency also said.

While the ISS will withstand assault from small pieces of space debris, it has to move to avoid larger ones.

Nasa estimates that this needs to be done approximately once a year.

“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”, an FAQ from Nasa states.

There is more than 23,000 pieces of orbital debris that are larger than ten centimeters, and at the start of this year the amount of material orbiting the planet Earth is over 8,000 metric tons.

The debris can include derelict spacecraft and debris intentionally released from spacecrafts during mission operations, as well as tiny bits of paint released by thermal stress or small collissions.

Recently astronauts on the ISS had to find an air leak, which had been letting out oxygen since September 2019.

While the rate of depressurisation had increased, the leak still remained within specifications and was no threat to the astronauts on board.

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