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ISS to maneuver around space junk leftover from Chinese anti-satellite test

Russian engineers will today fire engines on a Progress freighter docked to ISS to guarantee that a piece of debris left over from a 2007 Chinese military anti-satellite test does not hit the station.

The object the space station will dodge is called 35114 in NASA’s catalog of space objects, and is also identified at 1999-025DKS, a piece of debris from a Chinese anti-satellite weapons test in 2007. Originally part of a Chinese weather satellite, the debris resulted from an in-orbit missile test performed by China. As part of that test, a kinetic-energy, suborbital missile was fired at a defunct Chinese weather satellite called Fengyun-1C (which stopped working in 2002), obliterating it into thousands of pieces.

The destroyed satellite was originally in a much higher orbit, but atmospheric drag has pulled the debris closer to Earth over the years and ultimately into the flight path of the space station. The two objects’ closest approach is estimated to occur on Nov. 12, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at Harvard who tracks and catalogs objects in space. McDowell tweeted on Tuesday that his calculations show that this will be the 29th space station debris avoidance maneuver, and the third related to the 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test.

The maneuver will take place prior to the arrival of Endurance, carrying four astronauts.

While the anti-sat test initially produced about 3,500 pieces of debris, that number has dropped in the past fourteen years to about 2,700 pieces as the orbits of these objects slowly decay. The test was also another example of China’s willingness to break the Outer Space Treaty. As a signatory China is required to control every object it puts into orbit in order to prevent collisions. Instead, it performed a military test that created debris in the thousands, in orbits that threaten ISS.

We shall get another demonstration of China’s contempt for treaties in the next few months, when it launches two more large modules to its space station and the large core stage of the rocket comes crashing down somewhere on Earth, out of control.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

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.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

4 comments

  • MadRocketSci

    Space in general is getting crowded with debris. If we want a space-faring civilization, we’re going to *have* to come up with ways to deal with all the unavoidable debris of operations in orbit, or we’ll eventually get walled in by this spinning buzzsaw of junk.

    Stuff above ~500km decays very slowly (centuries) to not at all.

    A lot of this you just can’t avoid. (ASAT test debris is more on the avoidable side.) Paint flecks, explosive bolt fragments, debris from micrometeorites hitting things.

    Right now, I’m mostly imagining developing large ground-based laser installations to vaporize small objects. It seems a bit Rube-Goldberg to send a rocket up after every bolt in it’s own individual orbit.

  • John

    Are they sure they want to fire progress freighter engines? You know, they’ll have to turn them off again.

  • Jeff Wright

    Maybe Starship with an aerogel maw as a basking shark to stay up there for years. Briz-M was a big offender.

  • Col Beausabre

    MadRocketSci

    I remembered the claims about the life of Vanguard 1’s life span back when I was a kid, so decided to check on my memory

    “Vanguard 1 launched on 17 March 1958 at 12:15:41 UT from the Atlantic Missile Range in Cape Canaveral Florida. At 12:26:21, the third stage of the launch vehicle injected Vanguard 1 into a 654 x 3969 km, 134.27 minute orbit inclined at 34.25 degrees. Original estimates had the orbit lasting for 2000 years, but it was discovered that solar radiation pressure and atmospheric drag during high levels of solar activity produced significant perturbations in the perigee height of the satellite, which caused a significant decrease in its expected lifetime to only about 240 years. ”

    So maybe “Stuff above ~500km decays very slowly (centuries) to not at all.” needs to be looked at. There’s a whole order of magnitude between 2000 years (which I remembered) and 240.

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