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ISS astronauts shelter during debris incident

Astronauts onboard the ISS were forced to take shelter in their docked spacecrafts after a satellite break-up released debris near the space laboratory.

NASA revealed the “precautionary measure” lasted around an hour before the nine onboard were allowed to resume normal work.

Situational awareness firm LeoLabs said it detected the incident using its new West Australian Space Radar, and believes the fragments were generated by a non-operational Russian spacecraft.

“The ~6,000-kilogram satellite was in a nearly circular orbit at ~355 kilometres at the time of the event,” said the firm.


“LeoLabs will continue to monitor the resulting debris cloud and provide more details in the near future.”

In May 2021, after a similar incident, NASA explained why it asks astronauts to shelter in their own spacecraft during debris incidents.

“This [sheltering procedure] allows enough time to isolate those spaceships from the station by closing hatches in the event of a damaging collision,” the space agency said.

“The crew would be able to leave the station if the collision caused a loss of pressure in the life-supporting module or damaged critical components. The spacecraft act as lifeboats for crew members in the event of an emergency.”


The West Australian Space Radar, meanwhile, was unveiled in January last year.

The LeoLabs-run site, along with others globally, tracks more than 20,000 objects in low-Earth orbit before its software uses AI to process the millions of measurements collected.

It allows better tracking and monitoring of median to high inclination resident space objects in tandem with the LeoLabs Kiwi Space Radar in the South Island of New Zealand.

It comes with space companies increasingly concerned with the amount of debris in orbit and governments turning to commercial businesses for off-the-shelf-style surveillance.

More to follow...

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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