Crew on International Space Station moved to safety due to threat of debris from disintegrating Russian satellite | Science News

It is a standard precaution to arm astronauts with their spacecraft for such situations.

View of Earth from the International Space Station. (Image courtesy: Alexander Grebenkin/Roscosmos)

New Delhi: On June 26, a defunct and decommissioned Russian satellite, RESURS-P1, disintegrated in Earth orbit, resulting in more than 100 pieces of space debris that could be tracked, an event that was tracked by the US Space Command. NASA instructed the crew aboard the spacecraft to take refuge in the spacesuits that carried them to the orbital platform. The astronauts remained in their spacecraft for about an hour before they were able to resume normal operations. The satellite disintegrated at roughly the same altitude as the International Space Station.

The International Space Station is one of the most shielded spacecraft ever built, and critical elements such as high-pressure tanks and habitable compartments can withstand direct impacts from space debris up to one centimetre in diameter. The US Space Surveillance Network provides situational information for ISS operations, and it generally steers away from debris if there is a greater than one in 10,000 chance of a collision.

What about the astronauts on the Boeing Crew Flight Test?

Boeing Starliner pilot Sunita Williams and mission commander Barry Wilmore are both experienced astronauts who have spent more than 500 days in space and know the ins and outs of the space station. They are also helping with maintenance activities on the ISS in addition to science experiments. The two astronauts replaced cameras and carbon dioxide sensors in an experimental plant habitat, where small crops such as lettuce and tomatoes are grown for biological research in microgravity, as well as making sandwiches for the astronauts.

Orbital Plumbing

Sunita Williams and Barry Wilmore also fabricated a rebuilt pressure control and pump assembly motor to be installed in the Tranquility module's bathroom. The pressure control and pump assembly module broke down, and the two astronauts worked to remove the failed module and replace the module in the Tranquility module's waste and hygiene compartment. Both astronauts had previously worked on plumbing in the Harmony module.

What is Boeing Starliner doing?

The Boeing team is spending its time understanding as much as it can about the service module, which houses the propulsion system, and has thrusters that were not working nominally, as well as a bust valve and multiple leaks in the helium tank. This service module will be jettisoned shortly before re-entry, and it will not return to Earth. That's why ground teams are trying to learn as much as they can about the service module while it's still there. The Boeing Starliner can stay docked for up to 72 days, relaying on backup systems.

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