The ISS used thrusters from a cargo ship that was docked at the station along with NASA and Russian flight controllers working in tandem to avoid colliding with an unknown piece of debris, NASA said. The debris was supposed to arrive within a mile of the station on Tuesday at approximately 6:21 pm. ET, according to NASA.
There have been three “potential high-risk conjunctions” with space debris in the past two weeks alone, and the ISS has had to maneuver three times to avoid the debris this year, NASA said.
Low Earth orbit is a repository of orbital space junk, according to NASA. There are millions of pieces of matter flying around, and it ranges from pieces of spaceships to pieces of rockets and satellites that are out of order.
The three crew members of Expedition 63 aboard the ISS were directed to the Russian segment of the station as “part of the safe haven procedure for an abundance of caution,” NASA said.
“Burn maneuver completed. Astronauts are exiting a safe haven”, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted
Tuesday at 5:22 pm ET.
“@Space_Station maneuvered 3 times in 2020 to avoid debris”, Bridenstine added in a follow-up tweet
. “In the last 2 weeks, there have been 3 potential high risk conjunctions. The debris is getting worse! It’s time for Congress to provide @CommerceGov with the $ 15 million @POTUS requested for the Office of Space Commerce.”
On February 11, President Trump released a budget proposal that included a request for $ 15 million for the Office of Space Trade to be able to “respond to current and future national space policy directives.” One of the goals of the Commerce Department’s strategic plan is to make “improvements to the visualization and modeling of objects (including debris) within the space environment.”
No crews were harmed and the US and Russian segments of the station were able to resume normal operations once the maneuver was complete, NASA said.