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ISS forced to dodge space junk from Russia’s November ’21 anti-sat test

Last week the Russians were forced to use the engines of the Progress cargo capsule docked to ISS to shift the station’s orbit slightly to avoid a collision with some debris left over from Russia’s anti-satellite test in November 2021.

“I confirm that at 22.03 Moscow time, the engines of the Russian Progress MS-20 transport cargo ship carried out an unscheduled maneuver to avoid a dangerous approach of the International Space Station with a fragment of the Kosmos-1408 spacecraft,” Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Telegram (opens in new tab), according to a Google translation, using Roscosmos’ designation for Progress 81.

While the Russians have consistently denied the anti-sat test and the 1,500 satellite pieces it created would cause a collision threat, yesterday’s action was not a surprise, and was predicted by many right after the test.

The concern however is not the debris that has been identified and is being tracked, since collisions from that stuff can be predicted and avoided. The concern is from the smaller pieces that were not identified.

Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
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  • Steve Richter

    These unidentified pieces, once detected, are they added to the database of stuff being tracked? Is there a giant database that matches trajectories of all satellites and space junk and alerts to predicted collisions?

  • Steve Richter: Yes, the U.S. military maintains this database, and as it finds new objects it adds them to its list. Every other country in the world, including Russia, uses it.

  • pzatchok

    We need a replacement for the Russian system to move the station.

  • Col Beausabre

    “The United States Space Surveillance Network detects, tracks, catalogs and identifies artificial objects orbiting Earth, e.g. active/inactive satellites, spent rocket bodies, or fragmentation debris. The system is the responsibility of United States Space Command and operated by the United States Space Force.

    Space surveillance accomplishes the following:

    Predict when and where a decaying space object will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere;
    Prevent a returning space object, which to radar looks like a missile, from triggering a false alarm in missile-attack warning sensors of the U.S. and other countries;
    Chart the present position of space objects and plot their anticipated orbital paths;
    Detect new artificial objects in space;
    Correctly map objects travelling in the Earth’s orbit;
    Produce a running catalog of artificial space objects;
    Determine ownership of a re-entering space object;
    Inform NASA whether or not objects may interfere with the International Space Station or satellite orbits.”

    ” Every other country in the world, including Russia, uses it.”

    It should be like the International Ice Patrol with the other countries chipping in to help pay for it. The Ice Patrol was established after the Titanic Disaster and the US Coast Guard was given the mission of conducting it.

    “The International Ice Patrol is an organization with the purpose of monitoring the presence of icebergs in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans and reporting their movements for safety purposes. It is operated by United States Coast Guard but is funded by the 13 nations interested in trans-Atlantic navigation.

    The organization was established in 1914 in response to the sinking of RMS Titanic. The primary mission of the Ice Patrol is to monitor the iceberg danger in the North Atlantic Ocean and provide relevant iceberg warning products to the maritime community”

    Every year on April 15, an USCG Ice Patrol ship or aircraft deposits a wreath at the spot where the Titanic sank.

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “The concern is from the smaller pieces that were not identified.

    Steve Richter asked: “These unidentified pieces, once detected, are they added to the database of stuff being tracked?

    Pieces less than 10 cm (4 inches) start to become difficult to detect, and unless they can be consistently detected they are difficult to track. At some size, less than the 2 inch wavelength of most radars, these pieces become undetectable, yet they still have a mass and velocity (energy) that can cause tremendous damage. In general, smaller pieces from a collision, explosion, or burst (such as upper stage propellant tank) are thought to be greater in number than larger pieces, the smaller the more numerous.

    So as the song says, the ISS is starting to fly into the danger zone.

    At some point, pieces become too small (still high velocity but low mass) to have the energy to cause serious damage. The upper bound to this size is somewhere in the neighborhood of the size of a grain of sand, depending upon the relative velocity of the collision.

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