2nd space junk scare for ISS this week


The International Space Station (ISS) changed course Friday to avoid a possible collision with a piece of an old Pegasus rocket.

A chunk of that old rocket, which broke apart two years after the United States launched it into Earth’s orbit in 1994, was on track to pass close to the ISS Friday morning. NASA and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, monitored the chunk throughout Monday, eventually deciding they needed to move the space station.

About two hours before the debris was set to pass the ISS, at 2:58 a.m. ET, Roscosmos fired the engines of its Progress cargo spacecraft, which was docked to the ISS, pushing the orbiting laboratory closer to Earth. The two-and-a-half-minute engine burn lowered the space station’s altitude by 310 meters — about 1,000 feet — setting it on a new path, safely out of reach of the rocket chunk.

Because predicting the path of debris in Earth’s orbit isn’t exact, mission controllers routinely move the ISS when objects are expected to pass close by. Friday marked the second time the ISS had to change course in order to avoid debris this year, including once last month, when Russia swerved the station away from a piece of junk. In 2020, the orbiting laboratory had to dodge debris on three occasions.

During its two decades orbiting Earth, the ISS has moved to avoid space junk at least 30 times.

RTFA for details, ongoing problems, the importance of keeping space tidy.

How to build what you need – from metal that falls from the sky

The boiler for this home sauna fell from the sky

❝ In the isolated fishing villages of northwestern Russia, commuting distance from the top of the world, residents get by with the help of things that fall from the sky.

The things are hardly manna from heaven. They’re space junk. Specifically, rocket parts: the fuselage, fuel containers and highly toxic spent boosters of missiles launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, a Cold War-era base in the Arkhangelsk Oblast more than 200 miles to the south that is one of the most active launch sites on earth.

❝ The space trash ends up in the remote Mezensky District, whose northernmost town is less than 20 miles from the Arctic Circle. Residents in villages nestled amid forests, rivers and stretches of tundra recycle fuselages for hunting sleds and boats and scrape precious metals like gold and titanium from wrecks to sell on the black market. They will even use the odd sculptural piece of rocket as yard art…

Or part of their sauna.

Over a half-century of crap in space

Almost 20,000 pieces of space debris are currently orbiting the Earth. This visualisation, created by Dr Stuart Grey, lecturer at University College London and part of the Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory, shows how the amount of space debris increased from 1957 to 2015, using data on the precise location of each piece of junk.

We are a truly slovenly species.