NASA takes emergency measures as debris from missile launch threatens to wipe out ISS

SpaceX satellite explodes during solar storm

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While the Russian anti-satellite weapon test (ASAT) was conducted in November 2021, the ISS manoeuvred the fragment of orbital debris that was heading in its direction on Thursday. Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, used an uncrewed Progress 81 cargo ship docked at the ISS to help the orbiting lab dodge the fragment of the destroyed Russian satellite Cosmos 1408.

The Russian cargo spaceship blasted its thrusters for four and a half minutes to raise the ISS’ orbit slightly and shift it away from the space debris.

Head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Telegram: “I confirm that at 22:03 Moscow time, the engines of the Russian Progress MS-20 transport cargo ship carried out an unscheduled manoeuvre to avoid a dangerous approach of the International Space Station with a fragment of the Kosmos-1408 spacecraft.”

But NASA has said that no crew member was ever put in danger by the space junk, with the space debris predicted to miss the ISS anyway.

NASA officials wrote in an update: “The crew was never in any danger and the manoeuvre had no impact on station operations.

“Without the manoeuvre, it was predicted that the fragment could have passed within around a half-mile from the station.”

But back in November, when the ASAT test first took place, this was a different story.

The Russian destruction of the Soviet-era satellite sent as many as 1500 pieces of space debris hurtling past the ISS.

This forced four NASA astronauts to duck for cover in their spaceships.

The test enraged the US at the time.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement following the incident: “Due to the debris generated by the destructive Russian Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, ISS astronauts and cosmonauts undertook emergency procedures for safety.

“Like Secretary Blinken, I’m outraged by this irresponsible and destabilising action.”

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had earlier called the move “dangerous and irresponsible”.

The test also bizarrely forced two of Russia’s own cosmonauts to flee to their spaceships to avert the danger.

Mr Nelson added: “With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS but also their own cosmonauts.”

The test also posed a risk to a Chinese space mission.

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Mr Nelson said: “Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board.
“All nations have a responsibility to prevent the purposeful creation of space debris from ASATs and to foster a safe, sustainable space environment.”

And while the ASAT test was all the way back in November, Space command chief US Army General James Dickinson had warned that this would “continue to pose a threat to activities in outer space for years to come, putting satellites and space missions at risk, as well as forcing more collision avoidance manoeuvres“.

US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said: “Dangerous and irresponsible behaviour jeopardises the long-term sustainability of outer space and clearly demonstrates that Russia’s claims of opposing the weapons and weaponization of space are disingenuous and hypocritical.”

According to a NASA report, the Cosmos 1408 was launched in 1982 from Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

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