The International Space Station had to change its orbit slightly to avoid Russian space debris on June 16, 2022. The debris was created by a Russian anti-satellite test in 2021, and it would have come within half a mile of the station.
The ISS swerved to avoid Russian space debris
— Katya Pavlushchenko (@katlinegrey) June 16, 2022
Roscosmos shared a video of the avoidance maneuver on Telegram, and it later appeared on Twitter. In the maneuver, the ISS’s Progress 81 fired its thrusts for 4 minutes and 34 seconds. NASA refers to this maneuver as a Pre-Determined Abortion Maneuver (or PDAM).
The ISS wasn’t at full risk of colliding in space debris from Russia. However, NASA says the move was meant to add more distance between the station and the debris’ flight path. NASA released an update stating that the crew were not in danger, and that the maneuver did not affect station operations.
The debris belongs to the remains of Russian Cosmos 1408. Russia destroyed the non-functional satellite back in 2021. When it destroyed it, the country created an estimated 1,500 pieces of Russian space debris in orbit around the planet. This debris, experts have warned, could be problematic for the ISS and other Earth-orbit ventures for years to come.
A growing pile of space junk
While it might not have had any direct impact on the station’s operations this time, the addition of Russian space debris to Earth’s orbit is very notable. In the past, space junk has collided with the ISS and damaged the station. Although this was not the case, it continues to be a concern about the increasing amount of space junk.
Scientists have been looking for solutions to space junk for decades. Space junk can be found everywhere, and it poses a risk to a lot of operations. Most recently, 3 tons of space junk slammed into the side of the Moon. In the future, space junk slamming into the Moon or even Mars could mean putting human lives at risk.
Hopefully, the latest issue with Russian space debris from Cosmos 1408 has will push us to find better solutions to the problem. NASA has plans to send the ISS in the sea when it retires. It’s not clear what problems it might cause the space junk problem if it were to launch it into orbit.
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