Debris prompts space station crew to seek shelter

Irene Klotz, Reuters
March 25, 2012, 5:03 am

Nighttime view from the International Space Station shows the Atlantic coast of the United States in this NASA handout image dated February 6, 2012. REUTERS/NASA/Handout

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – A passing piece of potentially dangerous space debris forced astronauts at the International Space Station to temporarily seek refuge in escape ships early on Saturday, U.S. officials said.

The debris, a fragment from an old Russian satellite named Cosmos 2251 that smashed into an Iridium Communications spacecraft in 2009, passed harmlessly by the $100 billion orbital outpost at 2:38 a.m. EDT (0638 GMT), NASA said.

With enough advance notice, NASA will maneuver the space station, which orbits about 240 miles above the planet, to put more space between it and passing debris. The other option is for the station’s six crew members to shelter inside the two Soyuz capsules berthed at the station in case the outpost is struck and depressurizes.

“This was a very erratic piece of Cosmos 2251 debris and tracking it was very difficult,” NASA spokesman Michael Curie wrote in an email to Reuters.

“Its size and exact distance are unknown, and the crew sheltered in place as a highly-conservative, cautionary measure. The predicted miss distance prior to its passing was 11 to 14 kilometers (6.8 to 8.7 miles) in overall miss distance. But again, we do not know its exact distance at 2:38 am EDT, the time of closest approach,” he said.

It was the third time a crew has had to shelter in Soyuz spacecraft when debris was predicted to pass close to the space station, NASA said.

More than 20,000 pieces of man-made debris larger than a softball currently orbit Earth. Space junk travels at speeds of up to 17,500 mph, so even small pieces have enough energy to cause significant damage upon impact.

NASA says the greatest risk from debris comes from untrackable objects. The February 10, 2009, collision of the Russian and Iridium satellites added more than 2,000 pieces of trackable debris to the growing list of space junk. Two years earlier, China intentionally destroyed one of its defunct weather satellites to test a missile, generating more than 3,000 pieces of debris.

The U.S. military’s Space Surveillance Network tracks objects as small as two inches in diameter in orbits close to Earth, such as where the space station flies, and about one yard (.9 meter) in orbit in higher orbits.

(Editing by Paul Simao)

Debris prompts space station crew to seek shelter – Yahoo! New Zealand News.

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How Would NASA & Russia Evacuate the International Space Station?

By Clara Moskowitz

updated 8/29/2011 4:19:18 PM ET

In the wake of a Russian rocket failure, NASA is considering evacuating the crew of the International Space Station later this year. The unprecedented move would mark the first time in more than 10 years that the orbiting outpost has gone unmanned.

The space station evacuation is one possibility following the failure of the unmanned Russian supply spacecraft just after its Aug. 24 launch — a surprise given the reliable track record of its workhorse Soyuz rocket. The vehicle’s Progress 44 cargo craft, and its 2.9 tons of supplies bound for the International Space Station, crashed in Siberia.

An investigation into the cause of the failure is under way, but until the issue is resolved NASA and its Russian partners are delaying upcoming launches to crews and cargo to the space station. The Soyuz rockets used to launch Progress vehicles are similar to ones used to launch crews into orbit, station managers said. [ Photos: Russia’s Lost Cargo Ship Progress 44 ]

So if a root cause isn’t found quickly, they may have to ground manned Soyuz rockets for the time being, forcing the space agencies to leave the $100 billion orbiting laboratory unmanned for the first time since 2001….

via How Would NASA & Russia Evacuate the International Space Station? – Technology & science – Space – Space.com – msnbc.com.

International Space Station crew forced to evacuate

The six-member crew of the International Space Station were forced to evacuate to two Russian Soyuz evacuation capsules after spotting incoming debris that threatened to flatten the fragile craft

‘The space junk was detected too late for a ducking manoeuvre,’ the source told Interfax Photo: AFP

2:59PM BST 28 Jun 201167 Comments

The space junk missed the craft by 820ft, a Russian space industry source tolkd the Interfax news agency

"The space junk was detected too late for a ducking manoeuvre," the source told Interfax.

"The six ISS crew members received instructions to transfer to the Soyuz vehicles," the Russian source said.

An official at Russian space control outside Moscow said by telephone that such incidents had occurred on past occasions and did not represent an emergency.

"If this is true, they would be following the normal procedure for evacuating the station if necessary," the mission control spokesman said….

via International Space Station crew forced to evacuate – Telegraph.