Friday, July 17, 2015

Space Station Crew Hides from Space Junk

On July 15, 2015 aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 44 crew memebrs Scott Kelly of NASA (left), Expedition Commander and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka (middle), and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko (right) commemorated the 40th anniversary of the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission. Credit: NASA

The International Space Station (ISS) has avoided a collision with space debris that closely approached the orbiting outpost, NASA reported on Thursday. The implementation of Flight Rule B4-101 – resulting in the crew taking up the “safe haven” of a docked Russian Soyuz vehicle – was required during a close pass of debris from an old Russian weather satellite. This was the fourth time in the history of station operations that the crew has moved to the Soyuz due to a potential close pass of debris. The debris passed by the Station at 7:01 a.m. CDT. Thursday at a safe distance, allowing for nominal operations to resume.

"The crew of the International Space Station has moved into the Soyuz vehicle docked to the station as a precaution due to an anticipated close approach of a piece of space debris to the orbiting complex," NASA said.

Per Flight Rule B4-101, a “late conjunction” call results in the crew being ordered to close the hatches between Station modules and enter the Soyuz vehicles – which serve as lifeboats during their docked stay at the ISS – before TCA (Time of Closest Approach) breaches the 10 minute mark.

NASA's Flight Director Ed Van Cise then ordered Commander Gennady Padalka (Roscosmos) and One-Year crew members Scott Kelly (NASA) and Mikhail Kornienko (Roscosmos) to take shelter in their docked Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft as a precaution. After a safe pass, the crew then went back to work resuming normal station operations.

Russia’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos confirmed that the space debris threat has passed. "There is no threat to the ISS. Such situations occur quite often and the cosmonauts have the corresponding conduct regulations for this. In this case, the crew acted according to the regulations. The threat has passed," Russian Space Agency spokesman Igor Burenkov said.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Mission Control Centre (MCC) outside Moscow reported that the space debris approach data came too late to conduct a maneuver for the ISS orbit adjustment. The space debris data came unexpectedly, so we had no time to conduct the ISS orbit adjustment operation," an MCC representative said. "The actions of the crew for the evacuation to the Soyuz spacecraft were conducted in the nominal mode, communication is permanently maintained with the crew," he said.

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