Space debris smashes into robotic arm of ISS causing small hole to appear

NASA: Skylab astronauts run around space station in 1973

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The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has confirmed a piece of its equipment has been damaged onboard the ISS after a small chunk of space debris blasted through it. The object smashed through the Canadarm2 – a robotic arm outside the ISS which was supplied by CSA.

The CSA does not know what caused the hole, but it was likely a small meteorite.

Astronauts found the small hole, which measures around five millimetres, during a routine inspection on May 12.

However, the function of the arm should not be affected.

The CSA said: “Space can be a harsh and unforgiving environment for the robots and humans that explore it: the hazards are many, from massive temperature swings to radiation and orbital debris.

“Over 23,000 objects the size of a softball or larger are tracked 24/7 to detect potential collisions with satellites and the ISS.

“A number of tiny objects—ranging from rock or dust particles to flecks of paint from satellites—are also too small to be monitored.

“While the utmost precautions are taken to reduce the potential for collisions with the ISS, impacts with tiny objects do occur.

“One such hit was noticed recently during a routine inspection of Canadarm2 on May 12.

“Experts from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA worked together to take detailed images of the area and assess the impact, which occurred on one of Canadarm2’s boom segments.

“Despite the impact, results of the ongoing analysis indicate that the arm’s performance remains unaffected.”

There are more than 160 million pieces of ‘space junk’ floating in Earth’s orbit, with the number continuing to rise.

Satellites are constantly being put into orbit, clogging up more and more space in the process.

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Space junk, which can include debris from defunct satellites and pieces of rockets, is proving to be an increasingly prominent problem.

Furthermore, with pieces of space junk travelling at average speeds of 16,777 mph (27,000kmh), even the smallest pieces of debris, including chips of paint, could prove extremely problematic.

Last year, Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “People probably do not realise just how cluttered space is.

“You would never let a car drive down a motorway full of broken glass and wreckage, and yet this is what satellites and the Space Station have to navigate every day in their orbital lanes.

“In this new age of space megaconstellations the UK has an unmissable opportunity to lead the way in monitoring and tackling this space junk.”

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