The ISS is in a new orbit following a “debris avoidance maneuver” on Monday evening, October 24, 2022. Thus, placing the station out of harm’s way before some space debris passed too close to the station for comfort. Afterwards NASA reported the event via a blog post:
This evening, the International Space Station’s Progress 81 thrusters fired for 5 minutes, 5 seconds in a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) to provide the complex an extra measure of distance away from the predicted track of a fragment of Russian Cosmos 1408 debris.
Thruster bursts began at 8:25 p.m. ET on October 24 (00:25 UTC on October 25). Adjustment to the orbit was minimal, NASA said:
The PDAM increased the station’s altitude by 2/10 of a mile at apogee and 8/10 of a mile at perigee and left the station in an orbit of 264.3 x 255.4 statute miles.
The concerning piece of space junk would have passed within 3 miles (5 km) of the station.
Debris left over from messy Russian anti-satellite test
According to the US Department of State, the source of the dangerous debris was Cosmos 1408. It is a defunct 2.4-ton (2,200-kilogram) spy satellite left over from the Cold War era. USSR launched Cosmos 1408 in 1982. The Russian Federation destroyed the satellite in November 2021 to demonstrate its ability to destroy vehicles in orbit.
Also, this week, Russia declared “quasi-civilian infrastructure” such as the SpaceX Starlink satellites fair targets in its war. The Ukrainian military uses the Starlink satellites to help repel Russian invaders.
Bottom line: The ISS was moved this week to avoid a piece of Russian space debris. In fact, the concerning piece of space junk would have passed within 3 miles of the station.
Award-winning reporter and editor Dave Adalian's love affair with the cosmos began during a long-ago summer school trip to the storied and venerable Lick Observatory atop California's Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose in the foggy Diablos Mountain Range and far above Monterey Bay at the edge of the endless blue Pacific Ocean. That field trip goes on today, as Dave still pursues his nocturnal adventures, perched in the darkness at his telescope's eyepiece or chasing wandering stars through the fields of night as a naked-eye observer.
A lifelong resident of California's Tulare County - an agricultural paradise where the Great San Joaquin Valley meets the Sierra Nevada in endless miles of grass-covered foothills - Dave grew up in a wilderness larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, one choked with the greatest diversity of flora and fauna in the US, one which passes its nights beneath pitch black skies rising over the some of highest mountain peaks and greatest roadless areas on the North American continent.
Dave studied English, American literature and mass communications at the College of the Sequoias and the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has worked as a reporter and editor for a number of news publications on- and offline during a career spanning nearly 30 years so far. His fondest literary hope is to share his passion for astronomy and all things cosmic with anyone who wants to join in the adventure and explore the universe's past, present and future.
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