January 13, 2012
Station To Perform Debris Avoidance Maneuver Friday
International Space Station crew members are set to maneuver the space lab out of the way of an orbiting piece of space debris left over from a 2009 collision of two satellites, after US Space Command informed the station flight control team Wednesday of the potential hazard.
On Thursday, ISS ballistics officers confirmed the path of the debris and radioed Flight Director Emily Nelson that the debris has the potential of making impact with the station. As a result, Nelson gave the OK to proceed with a debris avoidance maneuver for the ISS on Friday.
The firing of the Zvezda service module engines is planned for 11:10 a.m. EST today. It will be the thirteenth evasive dodging maneuver the ISS has undergone since 1998. The space debris is only about 10cm (4in) in diameter, but not moving the station out of the way could prove disastrous. Debris travels at such high speed in orbit that it could cause a deadly puncture to the space station. The object is predicted to pass within 15 miles of the station, too close for comfort in space standards.
The space debris is a result of a 2009 collision between the Iridium 33 satellite and the defunct Russian Cosmos 2251 satellite. The incident, which happened in polar orbit 485 miles above northern Siberia, was the first time two satellites collided in space. It left a widespread trail of debris.
The last time the station was moved was in September. And in June, astronauts took shelter in the Soyuz escape capsule as debris flew by.
Friday´s maneuver will eliminate the need for the ISS to reboost next week. That reboost was scheduled to put the station at a proper altitude for the launch and docking later this month of the ISS Progress cargo ship.
NASA is currently tracking more than a half million pieces of space junk throughout Earth´s orbit that could potentially disrupt the ISS and other orbiting vehicles and satellites.
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