New Brunswick Tribune

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Russian weapons testing has resulted in debris which is now threatening the space station

Key takeaways:

  • Following the third pass, NASA experts determined that it was safe for the crew to return to the station’s interior.
  • The crew was also ordered to temporarily close hatches to numerous space station modules. 

A Russian space missile fired at one of its satellites in a weapons test on Monday created an orbital debris field that posed a threat to the International Space Station and will proceed to do so “for years to come,” according to US authorities.

As a precaution, the seven-member space station crew — four American astronauts, one German astronaut, and two Russian cosmonauts — were said to take refuge in their docked spacecraft capsules for two hours following the test, allowing for a speedy escape if necessary, NASA said.

Every 90 minutes, the research lab continued to travel through or near the debris cluster. Still, according to the agency, NASA specialists judged that it was safe for the crew to return to the station’s interior following the third pass.

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According to NASA, the crew was also ordered to temporarily close hatches to numerous space station modules.

In a statement, NASA chief Bill Nelson stated, “NASA will continue to monitor the debris in the following days and beyond to secure the safety of our crew in orbit.”

Experts argue that testing weapons that shatter satellites in orbit pose a risk since the shards can crash with other objects, causing a chain reaction of projectiles to fly across Earth orbit.

Thousands of pieces

The Russian military and ministry of defence did not respond to requests for comment right away.

According to the US Space Command, Russia’s direct-ascent anti-satellite missile generated more than 1,500 pieces of “trackable orbital debris” and will certainly spawn hundreds of thousands of smaller fragments.

“Russia has shown a willful disrespect for the security, safety, stability, and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations,” said US army Gen. James Dickinson, head of the space command.

The missile test debris “will continue to pose a hazard to activities in outer space for years to come,” he warned, “placing satellites and space missions at risk and prompting further collision avoidance manoeuvres.”

The missile test was called “reckless and irresponsible” by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. However, according to Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby, the exercise demonstrated the need to define space behaviour guidelines firmly.

Russian weapons testing resulted in debris that is now threatening

“It is unfathomable that Russia would put not just American and international partner astronauts aboard the International Space Station in peril, but also their cosmonauts,” Nelson added.

The event occurred only four days after NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and European Space Agency crewmate Matthias Maurer of Germany landed at the orbiting outpost to begin a six-month science mission.

Three space station crew members greeted them: Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov and American astronaut Mark Vande Hei.

Russia isn’t the first government to perform space-based anti-satellite testing. The first was carried out by the United States in 1959 when satellites were rare and new.

According to officials, Russia conducted another anti-satellite missile test in April, indicating that space will become a more crucial area for conflict.

In 2019, India used a ground-to-space missile to destroy one of its satellites in low-Earth orbit.

The US military is fitting increasingly reliant on satellites to determine what it does on the ground, guiding munitions with space-based lasers and satellites and monitoring and tracking its personnel.

These studies have also highlighted concerns about the long-term viability of space operations, critical to a wide range of commercial activities such as banking and GPS.

Source: CBC News

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