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HomeNewsThe International Space Station avoids a space junk with a damaged 'Life...

The International Space Station avoids a space junk with a damaged ‘Life Boat’ parked outside

Debris from Russian space junk crept uncomfortably close to the International Space Station early Wednesday morning, necessitating a debris avoidance maneuver. Normal operation – save for the fact that three crew members were forced to flee in a potentially damaged Soyuz spacecraft when evacuation from the ISS was required.

Another day, another aborted spacewalk. This spacewalk was canceled not because of a nasty coolant leak in the Soyuz MS-22 docked at the station, but because of the threat of space debris.

Tracking data warned that debris from the Russian Fregat-SB upper stage was approaching within a quarter mile of the ISS, triggering a debris avoidance maneuver, NASA explained in a blog post. Ground controllers instructed the crew to suspend spacewalk preparations and prepare for orbit adjustments instead. According to NASA updates, the maneuver took place at 8:42 a.m. EST, during which the thrusters of the docked Progress 81 spacecraft fired her 10 minutes and 21 seconds, and the ISS followed the predicted path of debris.

The space agency said the crew was not in imminent danger and a new date for the cancellation of the spacewalk, where astronauts Frank Rubio and Josh Kasada will proceed with the installation of solar panels, is imminent. The crew may not have been in “imminent danger”, but the incident was premature.

For Rubio and astronauts Sergei Prokopiev and Dmitry Petelin, the spacecraft is the journey home, but it’s also a lifeboat in case of serious emergencies. Roscosmos plans to make a decision on the spacecraft’s airworthiness by December 27th. Tests conducted over the weekend showed the Soyuz’s engine to be operating normally, but rapid temperature changes within the spacecraft’s cabin could be cause for concern. MS-22 may be considered operational, but if not, Roscosmos will send an unmanned Soyuz instead. The capsule was scheduled to launch in March, as part of the MS-23 mission, but Roscosmos says it has accelerated the flight so he can launch in mid-February.

Russia’s Roscosmos space agency is in the process of determining whether its Soyuz MS-22 is airworthy after her Dec. 15 leak in the spacecraft’s module’s external cooling loop. Investigation revealed a 0.8mm wide hole. This could be caused by micrometeorites or bits of space junk. Alternatively, the leak could be the result of a pre-assembled radiator vent, NASA speculated Monday.

It’s still not great. Rubio, Prokopiev, and Peterin will use the docked Soyuz MS-22 as their escape vehicle if it is determined that the space station must be evacuated for any reason. On Dec. 16, Russian ground controllers sent new instructions to the ISS in case that very emergency – an “emergency descent” – was needed, state news agency TASS reported.

In other words, the trio would have to take a chance inside an apparently damaged spacecraft because they have no other choice. Yes, a SpaceX Crew Dragon is docked to the station, but it’s there to return the remaining crew, which includes NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos astronaut Anna Kikina. The Progress 81 parked outside is a disposable cargo vehicle that burns to a crisp upon reentry, so it’s clearly not an option.

A full-scale evacuation of the ISS has never occurred, and it is unlikely to occur anytime soon. However, these two incidents—the leaky spacecraft and the threatening space junk—remind us that space can be a dangerous place to work, and astronauts are always vulnerable.

News Summary:

  • The International Space Station avoids a space junk with a damaged ‘Life Boat’ parked outside
  • Check all news and articles from the latest Space news updates.
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