International Space Station Drops Orbit to Avoid Collision with Space Debris23rd Dec 2021
On 3rd December, the Guardian announced that the International Space Station was forced to perform a manoeuvre that dropped its orbit by 310 metres to avoid collision with a piece of space debris. According to the director general of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin, the station dropped orbit for about 3 minutes to allow a space junk piece from a former US spacecraft, launched in 1994, pass by.
ISS Manoeuvre to Avoid Space Debris Will Not Affect Operations
Head of Roscosmos reported that the International Space Station had to change its orbit to avoid a close encounter with a piece of free-floating space debris from a US spacecraft launched almost 20 years ago. At the same time, Rogozin mentioned that the manoeuvre would not affect the upcoming launch of Soyuz MS-20 on 8th December. The mission to send tourists to the ISS, launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome, indeed went as planned, and the rocket docked to the International Space Station successfully.
Space Junk Is Still a Pressing Issue
Even though a close encounter with space debris did not endanger the ISS operations, space junk remains a pressing issue. Space debris includes discarded rocket parts and other spacecraft, posing danger to currently operational satellites and the International Space Station. Last week, space junk forced NASA to postpone its mission to replace antenna at the ISS.
US officials also voice their concerns about Russia’s anti-satellite missile tests that generate even more space junk, which in turn, increases risks of collisions with the ISS. Space agencies and companies worldwide are currently working on space debris removal missions, but space junk still keeps accumulating in LEO, which endangers space exploration for years to come.