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Space Junk Could Be Threat To Astronauts

September 2, 2009

NASA space shuttle Capcom Tony Antonelli informed Discovery commander Rick Sturckow about a possible conjunction with debris from a portion of an Ariane 5 rocket body. The conversation was preempted on NASA Television by the HTV preflight briefing and was replayed after the briefing at 2:41 p.m. EDT.

Tony Antonelli: We’ve been analyzing whether we need to do Debris Avoidance Maneuver (DAM). We’re considering all the options and they’re all still on the table. The closest point of approach is at GMT 247:15:06 minutes (11:06 a.m. EDT Friday). The options that are still being considered are: we don’t need to do anything; there would be an attitude maneuver with a reboost option that we would accomplish post-EVA; the other is a deboost that will take a good chunk of the time tomorrow and would delay EVA 2 by a day. We will know more later today. We plan to do the campout tonight either way to keep our options open.

NASA PAO commentary summarized that Mission Control has not yet decided if there is a need for an avoidance maneuver. Flight controllers will continue to evaluate the conjunction before making that determination. The object, with unknown dimensions, is in a highly-elliptical orbit, 32,000 by 317 kilometers. Experts in Mission Control believe the object will make its closest approach to the shuttle and station on Friday morning just after 11 a.m. EDT, at a distance of just under 11 kilometers.

Since no DAM decision has been made, preparations will continue to conduct the second spacewalk on Thursday.

Image Caption: Astronaut Nicole Stott, Expedition 20 flight engineer, participates in the STS-128 mission’s first spacewalk on Tuesday as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA 

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