Russian satellite breakup sends ISS astronauts to shelter

Russian satellite: Space station with large solar panels on either end floating above Earth.
Yesterday (June 26, 2024), the 9 astronauts aboard the space station were ordered to take shelter, after the breakup of a Russian satellite. After an hour, the astronauts were able to return to their regular activities. Image via NASA/ Roscosmos.

Russian satellite breakup sends astronauts to shelter

On Wednesday, June 26, 2024, shortly after 9 p.m. EDT, NASA instructed the nine astronauts aboard the International Space Station to head to their shelters. This precautionary measure was in response to the breakup of a Russian satellite, RESURS-P1. The astronauts spent about an hour in their shelters before it became clear the space station was not in the path of the debris.

This incident came on the same day NASA announced SpaceX as the company that would deorbit the International Space Station in 2030.

In a post on X/Twitter on Thursday morning, the U.S. Space Command said:

More on RESURS-P1

According to Leo Labs, a California company that provides collision avoidance service and real-time conjunction alerts for satellite operators:

The approximately 6,000 kg [13,000 lb] satellite was in a nearly circular orbit at about 355 km [220 miles up] at the time of the event.

While it is not yet clear what caused the breakup of the Russian satellite, the satellite ended its service back in 2021. So what was previously one defunct space object is now more than 100 pieces. With the increasing amounts of satellites accumulating in orbit, both operational ones and those past their useful lives, the crowded space around Earth is becoming more and more of a concern. According to the Orbiting Now website, there are currently more than 10,000 active satellites in orbit around Earth, with nearly 3,000 inactive satellites still in orbit.

The theory of a coming cascade of collisions is known as the Kessler syndrome. Uncontrolled collisions could eventually make areas of low Earth orbit unusable.

Bottom line: A Russian satellite breakup on June 26, 2024, sent astronauts aboard the International Space Station to their shelters until it became clear the debris was not in the path of the space station.

June 27, 2024

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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