At approximately At 7:42 a.m. (12:42 GMT), thrusters on the Progress 83 supply vehicle, currently docked with the International Space Station (ISS), fired for a little more than six minutes, raising the station’s orbit to prevent the potential collision, NASA said in a blog post (opens in new tab).The satellite in question appears to have been an Argentine Earth observation satellite launched in 2020, according to Sandra Jones of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. In a tknow (opens in new tab)Dr. Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, narrowed down the possible candidates for Nusat-17, noting the constellation’s orbital decay.
Related: International Space Station: Facts about the orbiting laboratory
Nusat-17 is one of ten commercial observation satellites launched in 2020 and operated by the geospatial data company Satellogic. As McDowell points out in his tweet, the Nusat constellation is one of several whose orbits are slowly encroaching on the ISS’s orbit.
Evasive maneuvers like this are not entirely uncommon for the space station. According to one December 2022 NASA report (opens in new tab)The ISS has made a total of 32 course corrections to avoid satellites and traceable space debris since 1999.
Last year, two such fixes were needed to avoid debris from the Cosmos 1408 satellite, which Russia destroyed in an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons test in November 2021 — a demonstration that has since been widely condemned by the international space community.
Monday’s course correction came with plenty of warning, with NASA receiving initial warnings about the potential collision about 30 hours before the satellite’s expected closest approach, Jones told Space.com. A predetermined evasive maneuver (PDAM) was calculated and crews aboard the ISS in tandem with NASA and Roscosmos ground teams prepared for the planned thruster burn. But “about 20 minutes before PDAM, a ‘green update’ was received on the link,” Jones said, adding, “thrusters were already engaged, so the burn was still being performed.”
Monday’s PDAM comes amid a time of heavy traffic for the ISS, and just days after the arrival of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavor and the members of Crew-6. Within the next week, astronauts aboard the space station will say goodbye to the members of Crew-5, who are scheduled to depart as early as Thursday (March 9), and begin preparing for the arrival of SpaceX’s CRS-27 cargo Dragon, which in currently scheduled to launch March 14.
NASA’s blog post states that the March 6 evasive maneuver will not affect Crew-5’s upcoming departure. In his statement to Space.com, Jones confirmed this position, adding, “this burn does not interfere with the phasing in of any future space station traffic.” NASA announced Wednesday afternoon that Crew-5 would detach from the ISS at 17.05 on March 9 for a planned splashdown at 21.25 on 10 March.
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