For 2nd Time This Year, ISS Dodges Space Junk

Debris is from Russian missile test that was condemned as 'reckless'
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2022 11:42 AM CDT
Space Station Maneuvers to Avoid Space Junk
This photo shows the International Space Station on March 30, photographed by the crew of a Russian Soyuz MS-19 spaceship after undocking from the station.   (Roscosmos Space Agency Press Service via AP)

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station conducted a "pre-determined debris avoidance maneuver" Monday night to steer clear of a piece of space junk. Per NPR, the station fired its thrusters for five minutes and five seconds, increasing its altitude by 0.2 miles to 0.8 miles (depending on where the station was on its elliptical orbit). Evidently, the ISS needs to move about once a year to avoid space junk, but according to, this is the second time this year it's been forced to avoid a fragment of Cosmos 1408, a defunct Soviet satellite that the Russian military destroyed with an anti-satellite missile test last November, creating some 1,500 new fragments.

The international community roundly condemned the missile test, which US officials called a "reckless and dangerous act," per CNN. China also raised alarms after an "extremely dangerous" close encounter between one of its satellites and a chunk of Cosmos 1408. NASA says there are tens of millions of fragments orbiting Earth, including up to 26,000 as big as softballs. Traveling between 22,000mph and 33,000mph, even the smallest fragment can damage satellites or hit other junk, creating new debris. Most space junk is the result of satellite collisions or explosions, and most will eventually disintegrate harmlessly in the atmosphere, but debris at high altitudes could remain in orbit for hundreds or thousands of years.

As one expert told NPR, space junk is of "particular risk to the United States because [it] is probably the most space-dependent power around," relying on a vast network of satellites for GPS, communications, and weather tracking. While there are no binding international rules governing space debris, all the major space agencies have guidelines for preventing its growth, and there are efforts underway to reduce the amount that's already there. Also per, a number of nations—including the US, the UK, Canada, Japan, and Germany—pledged not to perform destructive missile tests in space following Russia's missile test. (More International Space Station stories.)

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