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ISS debris avoidance maneuver cancelled – NASA breathes sigh of relief

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NASA logoISS Managers have just announced that the International Space Station debris avoidance maneuver for today was cancelled.  ISS managers were concerned that debris from the Cosmos satellite and the Indian rocket debris would collide with the ISS.  NASA explained the concern:

“More than 500,000 pieces of debris, or “space junk,” are tracked as they orbit the Earth. They all travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft.”

The United States Department of Defense maintains a catalog of satellites and space debris orbiting Earth.  They monitor any object larger than a softball.  When danger is detected, NASA goes into action:

“Debris avoidance maneuvers are usually small and occur from one to several hours before the time of the conjunction. Debris avoidance maneuvers with the shuttle can be planned and executed in a matter of hours. Such maneuvers with the space station require about 30 hours to plan and execute mainly due to the need to use the station’s Russian thrusters, or the propulsion systems on one of the docked Russian or European spacecraft. Several collision avoidance maneuvers with the shuttle and the station have been conducted during the past 10 years.”

Sources: NASA