Anti-satellite test by Russia made spacewalks riskier for astronauts

Anti-satellite test by Russia made spacewalks riskier for astronauts

Space is riskier than ever after Russia’s recent anti-satellite test.

Debris challenge in the Space

Two NASA astronauts were slated to undergo a spacewalk on Tuesday (Nov. 30) to replace a broken, 21-year-old antenna system. However, the International Space Station (ISS) was issued with a space debris warning, forcing the agency to postpone the event. The lack of “opportunity to fully examine the risk it could cause to the astronauts” was also addressed, according to the agency.

The sources and type of debris that caused the delay were not disclosed by NASA. This space debris concern comes just one day after NASA officials disclosed a few details. The debris cloud created by Russia’s recent ASAT test, for example, enhanced the risk to astronauts on a spacewalk. However, Russia’s ASAT test increased the danger by 7%.

Typically, floating debris poses a minor threat to astronauts and the space station itself. “The EMU [extravehicular mobility unit, or spacesuit] is much more vulnerable to smaller pieces of debris, and there are a lot more of them. Micrometeoroids and naturally occurring events are the main contributors “Weigel explained. However, after taking the ASAT test, the risk increased by a little percentage, “on the order of roughly 7%,” she said.

This tiny rise in space debris risk, however, is consistent with predicted, normal oscillations in natural debris such as micrometeoroids, according to Weigel.

“Unfortunately, when you have a debris event like this and you get a lot of really little pieces dispersed around,” Weigel said, “it just becomes part of the ordinary environment.” “Though the 7% rise is minor, it is well within the flux that we observe in the natural environment, so it is not elevated over what we’ve seen,” he continued.

Overcoming the shortcomings

It will take some time to recover from the ASAT test because it occurred so recently “It will take a few months to classify all of those [parts] and enter them into our standard debris tracking system. We can then calculate distances or how close these objects are to the International Space Station “she continued.

Weigel also stated that the astronauts did not anticipate executing their spacewalk any differently or taking any additional precautions to prevent debris due to the low expected danger. “There is no discrete directional factor to the remains at some time. So they’re not going to do anything unusual on the spacewalk “Weigel explained.

However, not long after the ASAT test, the decision was made to be “conservative.” The astronauts would skip a few “get ahead” chores, or optional extras, from the scheduled spacewalk.

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