NASA Administrator Bill Nelson issued a statement regarding a Russian anti-satellite weapon test that created a cloud of debris right in the path of the ISS. According to him, it is “unimaginable” that Russia would endanger the ISS and the people at the station, including the Russians.
As a result of the test, the ISS team had to take cover in the Crew Dragon and Soyuz capsules, in case any debris after the test ended up on the trajectory of the station crossing the path.
The NASA administrator said he was “furious” at this “destabilizing action.”
Their actions are reckless and dangerous, they also threaten the Chinese station with astronauts on board. All nations have a responsibility to prevent the intentional creation of dangerous space debris and to maintain a safe space environment.
Anti-satellite weapons were used against the Kosmos-1408 satellite, which stopped working many years ago. The irresponsible test created more than 1,500 debris. Over time, the number of small high-speed debris will amount to hundreds of thousands, which will threaten any ships and vehicles in this orbit for decades.
Some new debris objects from today’s breakup (orange orbit) visualized relative to ISS (blue orbit). Objects in white denote largest pieces of Cosmos 1408 tracked by LeoLabs. (Dots not to scale.) Debris ranges in altitude from 440 to 520km. pic.twitter.com/4ElV9KrK4P
— LeoLabs, Inc. (@LeoLabs_Space) November 16, 2021
Even small fragments can do huge damage. A small bolt moving at a speed of about 28 thousand kilometers per hour will easily pierce the hull of a station, ship or satellite. Hypothetically, such a case could provoke a cascade, destroying more and more vehicles and covering the Earth with a shell of debris.
If the satellite was destroyed carefully and did not leave behind a lot of debris, the situation could be hushed up. But not in this case, since the “field” of debris covers an altitude of 440 to 520 kilometers. Although the MSC is located at an altitude of 420 kilometers, some pieces cross the station’s orbit along the vertical plane.
According to a NASA statement, the Russian anti-satellite weapon test increased the danger to astronauts by four cuts.
Our #SlingshotBeacon partner, @Numerica_Corp, leveraging their global telescope network, imaged the debris field created by the Russian anti-satellite test against #Cosmos1408 in #LEO causing alarm to the #ISS crew, satellite operators, and spacefaring nations. pic.twitter.com/uK2NOmVHnr
— Slingshot Aerospace (@sling_shot_aero) November 15, 2021
Roscosmos stated only that for the organization the safety of the crew on board the ISS is paramount. The Russian Defense Ministry said the ISS was not under threat, and the same goes for ships or other satellites. The ministry did not disclose how it calculated the behavior of each individual debris in order to confidently state that the formed debris clouds will not create problems in the future.
For all the time, only four countries have tested anti-satellite weapons. If this practice continues, the ISS and other stations will have to use much more maneuvering to avoid potential collisions.