ISS moves to dodge space junk

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The International Space Station will tomorrow be forced to change orbit to dodge a piece of space junk, Russian news agencies are reporting.

The ISS will be moved tomorrow morning at 07.22 to avoid a piece of a Japanese spacecraft. A Russian Zvevda module will fire its booster rockets to carry out the operation.

It's not clear how likely a collision would be otherwise, as protocol demands that the station be moved when the chances are more than one in 10,000.

According to NASA estimates, there are as many as 21,000 pieces of space junk bigger than four inches across currently orbiting the Earth. Twice in the past, ISS crew have been forced to shelter in the Soyuz capsule while a piece of space debris passed.

Two chunks came close to the ISS just last week. A piece of an old Russian Cosmos satellite went past last Thursday, followed by part of an Indian rocket the following day.

Neither of these fly-bys was deemed enough of a threat to merit moving the ISS, although Japan decided to postpone the launch of five small satellites from the station until Thursday this week.

There are now three crew members aboard the ISS: NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Roscosmos cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. They've spent much of the last couple of days mending a blocked toilet.