News Categories

Space debris forces ISS to enact emergency maneuvers

By Salehuddin Bin Husin - on 10 Nov 2014, 11:45am

Space debris forces ISS to enact emergency maneuvers

It may look a bit like the TIE Fighter from Star Wars but the ISS doesn't have any defenses from collision except moving out of the way and praying for the best. Image Source: NASA

We just talked about how deadly space debris can be last week. It seems that fate agrees with us. As if wanting to underscore the importance of cleaning up our skies, the International Space Station was nearly hit by space debris a few days ago. It's not the first time this has happened, and probably won't be one of the last. A few years ago, it was even hit by a small rock which tore a hole in one of its solar panels.

This time though, it wasn't  another rock but a chunk of debris (about the size of your hand) from one of Russia's destroyed satellites. Our current technology isn't advanced enough to pinpoint the small debris (again a point we talked about in the earlier article), but only narrow down the impact zone to a measly 4 kilometers. Evidently, that scared the astronauts and ground control so much that opted to enact an effort to move the station rather than taking their chances in escape pods as they did in the past.

Using an available ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) that was hooked to the station at the time, the crew (with the assistance of mission control) managed to use its thrusters to push the ISS out of the danger zone to a safe distance about a kilometer away. 

Unlike the Space Shuttles of the past, an ATV is a non-reusable vehicle. It transport supplies up to the station and is then filled up with the station's waste over a period of months, while also performing as a booster to the ISS by using its thrusters to move the station when required. After it does its job, it's then jettisoned and allowed to burn up on re-entry.


Join HWZ's Telegram channel here and catch all the latest tech news!
Our articles may contain affiliate links. If you buy through these links, we may earn a small commission.