ISS oscillates to avoid collision with Earth imaging satellite

NASA astronaut Nicole Mann looks through the window of the ISS.
Image: NASA

Earlier this week was International Space Station was forced to adjust its orbit to avoid an intruding commercial satellite. That object is probably one of many The earth-observe infalling satellites and adjustment with space station circuit road, according to experts.

On Monday, the Progress 83 supply ship docked to the space station fired its engines for just over six minutes, raising the ISS’s orbit slightly to avoid a approaching satellite, NASA wrote in a blog post. The space agency did not identify the objectexcept to say it was an “Earth observation satellite.”

However, there is speculation that the satellite in question may be Argentina’s Nusat-17, one of 10 commercial Earth observation satellites form the Aleph-1 constellation operated by Satellogic. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, wrote on Twitter that the orbits of the Satellite constellation have been gradually decaying and that the satellites are now crossing the orbit of the ISS.

The latest ISS maneuver points to a larger problem with the growing number of satellites, both decommissioned and operational, and debris which pose a threat to orbiting spacecraft. More than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris are currently remaining tracked of the Defense Department’s global space surveillance network, with plenty of smaller pieces also floating around undetected.

In December 2022, the ISS completed a similar maneuver to avoid a collision with a Russian Fregat-SB upper stage fragment that threatened to come within less than a quarter of a mile of the space station. In fact, the space station has had to perform 32 collision maneuvers since 1999. These orbital fluctuations have so far not affected the astronauts on board the ISS. NASA stated that the latest maneuver will not affect the upcoming Crew-5 departure from the space station.

The four astronauts in Crew-6 mission arrived at ISS on March 3, while Crew-5 astronauts will return home aboard the docked SpaceX Endurance spacecraft as early as March 9. However, cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio will remain aboard the ISS until September.

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