NASA Postpones Spacewalk Citing ISS “Debris Notification” | International space station

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NASA postponed a planned spacewalk outside the International Space Station due to flying “debris”, two weeks after Russia detonated one of its own satellites during a test. missile that created clouds of shrapnel in orbit.

The Washington space agency did not mention the Russian test in its announcement, but a NASA official had warned a day earlier of a slightly increased risk to astronauts due to the November 14 incident.

The strike generated thousands of pieces of “space junk” that are now being launched around Earth at around 17,000 mph (27,400 km / h) – far faster than the speed of a bullet. At this speed, even tiny spots of paint can damage the spaceship, with spacesuits being even more vulnerable.

On Tuesday, about five hours before astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron ventured outside the space station, NASA said on twitter that the spacewalk to fix a failed antenna had been canceled.

“NASA has received a debris notification for the space station. Due to the lack of an opportunity to properly assess the risk this could pose to astronauts, the teams decided to delay the November 30 spacewalk until more information is available, ”a- he declared. tweeted.

Moscow said its test to destroy its own spacecraft, Tselina-D, which had been in orbit since 1982, had been successful and that the debris posed no “threat to space activity”.

But following the test, the astronauts aboard the ISS – four Americans, one German and two Russians – were ordered to immediately seek refuge in moored capsules. The crew then had to take other precautions, such as closing and reopening the hatches of the station’s individual labs every 90 minutes or so as they passed near or through space debris.

ISS astronauts discuss evacuation after Russian test causes space debris - audio
ISS astronauts discuss evacuation after Russian test causes space debris – audio

NASA administrator Bill Nelson said at the time he was outraged. “It is incredible that the Russian government is doing this test and is threatening not only the international astronauts, but their own cosmonauts who are on board.”

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said Russia has shown that it is “willing to endanger the exploration and use of outer space by all nations through its reckless behavior and irresponsible”.

Monday, before the planned spacewalk, Dana Weigel, NASA deputy director for the ISS, noted the debris had since “dispersed a little more”. But she added that the agency had calculated a 7% higher risk of puncturing the astronauts’ suits, compared to before the Russian missile test.

Nasa TV had planned to provide live coverage of the exit in the space of six and a half hours, which was scheduled to begin at 7:10 a.m.ET (12:10 p.m. GMT). The goal was to remove a faulty S-band radio communications antenna, more than two decades old, and replace it with a new antenna already stored outside the space station.

The failed antenna recently lost its ability to send signals to Earth, although the station has other antennas.

Millions of space debris, including from disused rocket parts as well as natural hazards such as meteorites, pose a threat to the space station. They can stay in orbit for years or decades before descending into the atmosphere.

In 2007, a Chinese missile test created dangerous space debris that continues to be tracked today. Two years later, a missing Russian spacecraft collided with an American commercial spacecraft and destroyed it more than 650 km above Earth.

As governments increasingly depend on satellites for communications and observation, anti-satellite weapons have been seen as a means of disrupting an enemy. Although they still have not been used in warfare, the development of such missiles by the United States, Russia, India and China has raised fears of a new arms race.

Analysts warn their deployment will be catastrophic and, in the worst-case scenario, make low Earth orbit so cluttered with debris that the satellites are unable to function.



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