The International Space Station is preparing to move out of the way of the space debris incoming created after China performed an in-orbit missile test of an anti-satellite weapon back in 2007. The problem of space junk is growing rapidly, and its consequences became clearer than ever as human presence in space has increased significantly.
The Russian-built Progress MS-18 cargo ship that is currently docked to the ISS, will fire up its thrusters around six minutes, as per a Roscosmos statement. That’ll be enough power to move the space station out of the way, but only slightly. The space station will come within 2,000 feet of the hurtling debris.
Dodging debris becoming common
The debris was created after a derelict Chinese weather satellite was intentionally blown with an anti-satellite missile in 2007. The impact gave birth to a huge cloud of debris, with more than 3,500 objects being tracked as a result of the collision, as per Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell.
The news comes after the space station had to dodge a piece of debris last year, the third time in 2020 alone. At that time NASA’s then-administrator Jim Bridenstine asked for more funding to help NASA keep track of the growing number of space junk pieces orbiting Earth.
Space junk is a growing problem
According to McDowell, the ISS’ closest approach with the space junk will occur on Friday. The pieces from the defunct weather satellite were previously orbiting in a higher orbit, but due to atmospheric drag, they’ve managed to come down to ISS’ orbit. The astronomer notes that this might be the third time the space station had to evade debris related to the anti-satellite missile test.
Recently, researchers at the University of Utah have come up with an idea to clean space junk using magnets. With the help of magnets, robots will push the debris into an orbit where it would burn up without actually having to touch it, which would make it safer and faster than collecting individual pieces. However, this method needs to work on the debris of all sorts, including metallic but non-magnetic pieces.