The International Space Station was compelled to adjust itself on Wednesday, approximately six hours before NASA’s Crew-3 mission launched into orbit, to avoid a piece of debris created by a Chinese anti-satellite missile test in 2007.
At 02:03 am GMT on 11th November, SpaceX launched four men on NASA’s Crew-3 mission. However, before that crew can launch, the International Space Station had to move the Chinese space trash out of the way.
The debris was expected to enter the “pizza box,” a square-shaped zone 2.5 miles deep and 30 miles wide in the middle of which the station was located. NASA officials keep a close eye on the location by relying on data models maintained by the US Space Command on positioning objects in space.
Our space junk problem is rapidly expanding, and the repercussions are becoming evident than ever. As a result, to combat the threat, the agency collaborated with Russia’s space agency in Moscow to launch station thrusters. The Russian-built Progress MS-18 cargo ship will fire its thrusters for 361 seconds at about 3 p.m. Eastern time. It should be enough to get the space debris out of the way. Even so, the station will be within 2,000 feet of the flying debris.
“It just makes sense to go ahead and do this burn and put this behind us so we can ensure the safety of the crew,” Joel Montalbano, NASA’s space station manager, told reporters during a news conference on Tuesday.
The piece of junk was formed 14 years ago after a defunct Chinese satellite was blasted to tiny pieces with an anti-satellite missile. According to Harvard astronomer and space tracker extraordinaire Jonathan McDowell, the collision resulted in a massive cloud of space junk, with over 3,500 particles detected.
The statement came after the ISS had to escape space debris for the third time in September 2020. Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine requested additional funding at the time to better track the growing amount of junk orbiting our planet.
On Friday, the station will make its closest approach to the Chinese space trash, according to McDowell. The components of the wrecked weather satellite were previously in a higher orbit, but they have progressively sunk to the station’s orbit owing to air drag.
In fact, according to the astronomer, this is the third time the ISS has had to avoid debris from an anti-satellite missile test, which is quite problematic.