A piece of space debris from a Russian anti-satellite weapons test forced the International Space Station to maneuver on Thursday (June 16) to avoid the orbital debris.
The Russian space agency Roscosmos used an unmanned Progress 81 freighter docked at the International Space Station to clear the orbiting laboratory from a piece of space debris from the Russian satellite Cosmos 1408, sharing video of the activity. (opens in new tab) on the social media service Telegram. Russia destroyed the defunct Soviet-era satellite in an anti-satellite missile test in November 2021.
“I confirm that at 22:03 Moscow time, the engines of the Russian Progress MS-20 transport freighter performed an unplanned maneuver to prevent a dangerous approach to the International Space Station with a fragment of the spacecraft Kosmos-1408,” said Roscosmos. Chief Dmitry. Rogozin wrote on Telegram (opens in new tab)according to a Google translation, using Roscosmos’ designation for Progress 81.
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At 19:03 UTS, #ProgressMS20 carried out an unplanned engine fire to avoid space debris caused by #Kosmos1408. Here’s a video from Roscosmos: https://t.co/WvH1SCPC9c pic.twitter.com/yHPymtzqgmJune 16, 2022
The Progress 81 freighter fired its thrusters for 4 minutes and 34 seconds to move the massive space station away from the orbit of the fragment of Cosmos-1408 and slightly raise the station’s orbit.
“The crew was never in danger and the maneuver did not affect the station’s operations,” NASA officials wrote in an update. (opens in new tab)† “Without the maneuver, the fragment was predicted to have passed within about half a mile of the station.”
Cosmos 1408 was a Soviet Electronic and Signals Intelligence-targeted Tselina-D satellite launched in 1982 from Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome, according to a NASA report (opens in new tab)†
On November 15, 2021, the satellite (which was no longer functional) was deliberately destroyed by Russia in an anti-satellite missile test that created an estimated 1,500 pieces of orbital debris. Astronauts on the space station had to seek shelter on Nov. 15 amid concerns about that debris, which could pose a danger to the space station and other spacecraft for years, experts said.