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Raumfahrt - Russian test blamed for space junk threatening space station -Update

16.11.2021

U.S. officials say a Russian weapons test created the space junk now threatening the seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station

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A Russian weapons test created more than 1,500 pieces of space junk now threatening the seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station, according to U.S. officials who called the strike reckless and irresponsible.

The State Department confirmed Monday that the debris was from an old Russian satellite destroyed by the missile.

“Needless to say, I’m outraged. This is unconscionable,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told The Associated Press. “It’s unbelievable that the Russian government would do this test and threaten not only international astronauts, but their own cosmonauts that are on board the station" as well as the three people on China's space station.

Nelson said the astronauts now face four times greater risk than normal. And that's based on debris big enough to track, with hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces going undetected — “any one of which can do enormous damage if it hits in the right place.”

In condemning Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said satellites were also now in jeopardy.

The test clearly demonstrates that Russia "despite its claims of opposing the weaponization of outer space, is willing to ... imperil the exploration and use of outer space by all nations through its reckless and irresponsible behavior,” Blinken said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment late Monday from Russia about the missile strike.

Once the threat became clear early Monday morning, the four Americans, one German and two Russians on board were ordered to immediately seek shelter in their docked capsules. They spent two hours in the two capsules, finally emerging only to have to close and reopen hatches to the station's individuals labs on every orbit, or 1 1/2 hours, as they passed near or through the debris.

By the end of the day, only the hatches to the central core of the station remained open, as the crew slept, according to Nelson.

Even a fleck of paint can do major damage when orbiting at 17,500 mph (28,000 kph). Something big, upon impact, could be catastrophic.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. has repeatedly raised concerns with Russia about doing a satellite test.

“We are going to continue to make very clear that we won’t tolerate this kind of activity,” he told reporters.

NASA Mission Control said the heightened threat could continue to interrupt the astronauts' science research and other work. Four of the seven crew members arrived at the orbiting outpost Thursday night.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who's midway through a yearlong mission, called it “a crazy but well-coordinated day" as he bid Mission Control good night.

“It was certainly a great way to bond as a crew, starting off with our very first work day in space," he said.

A similar weapons test by China in 2007 also resulted in countless debris. One of those pieces threatened to come dangerously close to the space station last week. While it later was dismissed as a risk, NASA had the station move anyway.

Anti-satellite missile tests by the U.S. in 2008 and India in 2019 were conducted at much lower altitudes, well below the space station at about 260 miles (420 kilometers.)

The defunct Russian satellite Cosmos 1408 was orbiting about 40 miles (65 kilometers) higher.

Until Monday, the U.S. Space Command already was tracking some 20,000 pieces of space junk, including old and broken satellites from around the world.

Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said it will take days if not weeks and months to catalogue the latest wreckage and confirm their orbits. The fragments will begin to spread out over time, due to atmospheric drag and other forces, he said in an email.

The space station is at especially high risk because the test occurred near its orbit, McDowell said. But all objects in low-Earth orbit — including China’s space station and even the Hubble Space Telescope — will be at “somewhat enhanced risk” over the next few years, he noted.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Space Agency said via Twitter that the astronauts were ordered into their docked capsules, in case they had to make a quick getaway. The agency said the crew was back doing routine operations, and the space station’s commander, Russian Anton Shkaplerov, tweeted: “Friends, everything is regular with us!”

But the cloud of debris posed a threat on each passing orbit — or every 1 1/2 hours — and all robotic activity on the U.S. side was put on hold. German astronaut Matthias Maurer also had to find a safer place to sleep than the European lab.

NASA's Nelson noted that the Russians and Americans have had a space partnership for a half-century — going back to the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975.

“I don't want it to be threatened,” he told the AP, noting both countries are needed for the space station. “You've got to operate it together.”

Quelle: abcNews

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Russian anti-satellite missile test draws condemnation

 

The US has condemned Russia for conducting a "dangerous and irresponsible" missile test that it says endangered the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The test blew up one of Russia's own satellites, creating debris that forced the ISS crew to shelter in capsules.

The station currently has seven crew members on board - four Americans, a German and two Russians.

The space station orbits at an altitude of about 420km (260 miles).

"Earlier today, the Russian Federation recklessly conducted a destructive satellite test of a direct ascent anti-satellite missile against one of its own satellites," US state department spokesman Ned Price said at a briefing.

"The test has so far generated over 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris that now threaten the interests of all nations."

Nasa administrator Bill Nelson said he was outraged at the incident.

"With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts" as well as Chinese "taikonauts" aboard China's space station, he said in a statement.

Russian space agency Roscosmos downplayed the incident.

"The orbit of the object, which forced the crew today to move into spacecraft according to standard procedures, has moved away from the ISS orbit. The station is in the green zone," the agency tweeted.

The wayward material passed by without incident, but its origin is now under the spotlight.

It appears to have come from a broken-up Russian satellite, Kosmos-1408. A spy satellite launched in 1982, it weighed over a tonne and had ceased working many years ago.

 

LeoLabs, a space debris-tracking company, said its radar facility in New Zealand had picked up multiple objects where the long-defunct spacecraft should have been.

Mr Price described the Russian action as "dangerous and irresponsible" and said it demonstrated the country's "claims of opposing weaponisation of space are disingenuous and hypocritical.

"The US will work with our partners and allies to respond to their irresponsible act," he said.

And UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the test "shows a complete disregard for the security, safety and sustainability of space".

"The debris resulting from this test will remain in orbit putting satellites and human spaceflight at risk for years to come," he added.

It's difficult not to view anti-satellite missile tests as a form of madness.

 

It's impossible to control the debris field that results from a high-velocity impact. Thousands of fragments are produced. Some will be propelled downwards towards Earth and out of harm's way, but many will also head to higher altitudes where they will harass operational missions for years into the future - including those of the nation state that carried out the test.

What must the Russian cosmonauts on the space station have been thinking when they took shelter in their Soyuz capsule early on Monday because of the risk debris from this test might intersect with their orbital home?

Space junk is a rapidly worsening situation. Sixty-four years of activity above our heads means there are now roughly a million objects running around up there uncontrolled in the size range of 1cm (0.4in) to 10cm.

An impact from any one of these could be mission-ending for a vital weather or telecommunications satellite. Nations need to be clearing up the space environment, not polluting it still further.

A number of countries have the ability to take out satellites from the ground, including the US, Russia, China and India.

Testing of such missiles is rare, but always draws widespread condemnation whenever it occurs, because it pollutes the space environment for everyone.

When China destroyed one of its retired weather satellites in 2007, it created more than 2,000 pieces of trackable debris. This material posed an ongoing hazard to operational space missions, not least those of China itself.

Brian Weeden, an expert in space situational awareness, earlier said that if it was confirmed Russia had conducted a test that endangered the ISS, the conduct would have been "beyond irresponsible".

The space station occupies an orbital shell that other operators try to keep clear of hardware, either working or retired.

However, the astronauts are increasingly having to take precautionary measures when fragments from old satellites and rockets come uncomfortably close.

The velocities at which this material moves means it could easily puncture the walls of the station's modules.

Precautionary measures usually involve closing hatches between the modules, and, as happened on Monday, climbing into the capsules that took the astronauts up to the station. These vehicles stay attached to the ISS throughout the crews' tours of duty in case there is a need for a rapid "lifeboat" escape.

Quelle: BBC

 

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‘A wild west out there’: Russian satellite debris worsens space junk problem

The explosion has increased the chances of a disastrous collision, says a leading astrophysicist, and warns of ‘real environmental problem’

 

When Russia fired a missile at one of its own satellites on the weekend, the explosion generated many thousands of pieces of shrapnel that are now zooming around in space at breathtaking speeds.

It added to a sizeable volume of debris already in space, intensifying concerns over the risk that rubbish poses to the International Space Station (ISS) and satellites. The danger lies in a possible collision between objects that are hurtling around at 17,000 mph (27,400km/h).

 

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said there were about 4,000 active satellites and since the Russia test, as many as 19,000 pieces of space debris in low Earth orbit. This is the region of space stretching from about 120 miles to 1,200 miles (200km to 2,000km) above Earth.

He said the test would have generated other pieces of shrapnel, too small to show up on radar, that could number in the hundreds of thousands. All up, the explosion probably increased the number of debris objects by around 10%.

“It’s not a huge increase, but it’s worrying. We have a problem with space junk. So don’t deliberately create more,” he said.

The concern is that flying debris may collide with the ISS or a satellite, with the latter helping with a range of things from internet relay to weather services, imaging, studying climate change and spying. At the speed the debris travels, McDowell said it would “pulverise instantly a satellite and completely destroy it”.

In the worst-case scenario, there could be so many collisions that low Earth orbit becomes too cluttered with debris for satellites to operate. McDowell said while this is a “danger”, it’s not something that would happen immediately.

“It’s like most environmental problems, it’s not like the oceans are wonderfully clear and then one day they are full of plastic. Things get slowly worse and worse.”

The astrophysicist said the number of near-misses in space is rising, and the number of collisions – while still rare – is also rising. In March, a piece of Russian debris hit a Chinese satellite, generating a spray of fresh junk. Tracking debris can help avoid mishaps but ultimately, some of it will need to be removed.

Some progress has been made on this in recent years. McDowell said many involved in space are operating in a “cleaner” way and there are processes that naturally reduce some of the debris. But all of that is wiped out in a day with a collision like the Russia test.

“At some point we’re going to have to have space garbage trucks that go up and take some of this stuff,” he said. “That’s going to be expensive. The technology is just about there now, the money is not. But I think it has to come.”

Adding to his concerns is a steep ramp-up in commercial activity in space which McDowell said had begun to dominate government activity in recent years. Many thousands of new satellites have been launched and up to 100,000 could be added in the next few years.

“There’s a real concern that we’re getting a real environmental problem in outer space. Commercial activity isn’t being regulated adequately … it’s happening faster than regulation,” he said.

“It’s largely US and Europeans but even China now is starting to have a true commercial space sector. It’s a bit of a wild west out there.”

Quelle: The Guardian

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US accuses Russia of ‘dangerous’ behavior after anti-satellite weapons test

Russia fired missile at its own satellite, generating debris that US says ‘threatens interests of all nations’

The US has accused Russia of “dangerous and irresponsible behavior” after it conducted an anti-satellite weapons test that threatened the lives of the seven astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS).

Russia fired a missile at one of its own satellites over the weekend, generating more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and hundreds of pieces of smaller debris, which the US said “now threaten the interests of all nations”.

 

Astronauts aboard the ISS were forced to float into special “lifeboat” pods following the release of the debris. The pods can detach from the ISS and fly crews back to Earth.

“Needless to say, I’m outraged. This is unconscionable,” Nasa administrator Bill Nelson said. “It’s unbelievable that the Russian government would do this test and threaten not only international astronauts, but their own cosmonauts that are on board the station as well as the three people on China’s space station.”

Nelson said the astronauts now faced a four times greater risk than normal with the ISS passing near or through the debris cloud every 90 minutes.

His assessment was based on the risk from debris big enough to track. But hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces were going undetected – “any one of which can do enormous damage if it hits in the right place”.

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, also condemned Russia’s action and said satellites throughout Earth’s orbit were also now in jeopardy.

The test clearly demonstrated that despite Russian claims that it opposed the weaponisation of outer space, it was “willing to imperil the exploration and use of outer space by all nations through its reckless and irresponsible behavior”, Blinken said in a statement.

The UK defence minister Ben Wallace said: “This destructive anti-satellite missile test by Russia shows a complete disregard for the security, safety and sustainability of space.”

Anti-satellite weapons tests are rare and are criticized by the space community, due to the risk they create for crews in low Earth orbit. Last year US space command accused Russia of having “made space a warfighting domain” after it fired a missile at a satellite as part of a weapons test.

The Russian military and ministry of defense did not immediately comment.

Earlier on Monday, amid reports that Russia had conducted an anti-weapons test, Nasa’s Russian counterpart, Roscomos, tweeted that the ISS crew had been forced to move into spacecraft owing to an “object” orbiting the Earth.

“Friends, everything is regular with us! We continue to work according to the program,” Anton Shkaplerov, the current commander of the outpost, tweeted.

The Nasa astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and the European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer floated into their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for safety, according to a report by Spaceflight Now.

At the same time, the Russian cosmonauts Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov and the Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei boarded a Soyuz spacecraft on the Russian segment, Spaceflight Now said.

Experts say anti-satellite weapons that shatter their targets pose a space hazard by creating a cloud of fragments that can collide with other objects, which can set off a chain reaction of projectiles through Earth orbit.

The US performed the first anti-satellite weapon test in 1959, when satellites themselves were new and rare. The US fired an “air-launched ballistic missile” from a B-47 bomber at the Explorer VI satellite, but missed.

Russia conducted three anti-satellite missile tests in 2020, according to Space.com. Following the launch of an anti-satellite missile by Russia last December, Gen James Dickinson, the US space command commander, criticized the country for “persistent testing” of “space-based and ground-based weapons intended to target and destroy satellites”.

“Russia publicly claims it is working to prevent the transformation of outer space into a battlefield, yet at the same time Moscow continues to weaponize space by developing and fielding on-orbit and ground-based capabilities that seek to exploit US reliance on space-based systems,” Dickinson said.

He added: “We stand ready and committed to deter aggression and defend our nation and our allies from hostile acts in space.”

The US military is increasingly dependent on satellites to determine what it does on the ground, guiding munitions with space-based lasers and satellites as well as using such assets to monitor for missile launches and track its forces.

The anti-satellite weapons tests have also raised questions about the long-term sustainability of operations in space that are essential to a huge range of commercial activities, including banking and GPS services.

Quelle: The Guardian

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NASA Administrator Statement on Russian ASAT Test

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Astronauts and experiments on the International Space Station work to make life better on Earth and help humanity explore deep into the cosmos.
Credits: NASA

On Monday Moscow Standard Time, the International Space Station (ISS) Flight Control team was notified of indications of a satellite breakup that may create sufficient debris to pose a conjunction threat to the station. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson released the following statement about the incident:

 

“Earlier today, due to the debris generated by the destructive Russian Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, ISS astronauts and cosmonauts undertook emergency procedures for safety.

 

“Like Secretary Blinken, I’m outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action. With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts. Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board.

 

“All nations have a responsibility to prevent the purposeful creation of space debris from ASATs and to foster a safe, sustainable space environment.

 

“NASA will continue monitoring the debris in the coming days and beyond to ensure the safety of our crew in orbit.”

 

The crew was awakened and directed to close the hatches to radial modules on the station, including Columbus, Kibo, the Permanent Multipurpose Module, Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and Quest Joint Airlock. Hatches between the U.S. and Russian segments remain open.

 

An additional precautionary measure of sheltering the crew was executed for two passes through or near the vicinity of the debris cloud. The crew members made their way into their spacecraft shortly before 2 a.m. EST and remained there until about 4 a.m. The space station is passing through or near the cloud every 90 minutes, but the need to shelter for only the second and third passes of the event was based on a risk assessment made by the debris office and ballistics specialists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Quelle: NASA

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Russian direct-ascent anti-satellite missile test creates significant, long-lasting space debris

By U.S. Space Command Public Affairs Office

Russia tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile on Nov. 15, 2021, Moscow Standard Time, that struck a Russian satellite [COSMOS 1408] and created a debris field in low-Earth orbit. The test so far has generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and will likely generate hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris.

“Russia has demonstrated a deliberate disregard for the security, safety, stability, and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations,” said U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander. “The debris created by Russia's DA-ASAT will continue to pose a threat to activities in outer space for years to come, putting satellites and space missions at risk, as well as forcing more collision avoidance maneuvers. Space activities underpin our way of life and this kind of behavior is simply irresponsible.”

USSPACECOM's initial assessment is that the debris will remain in orbit for years and potentially for decades, posing a significant risk to the crew on the International Space Station and other human spaceflight activities, as well as multiple countries' satellites. USSPACECOM continues to monitor the trajectory of the debris and will work to ensure all space-faring nations have the information necessary to safeguard their on-orbit activities if impacted by the debris cloud, a service the United States provides to the world, to include Russia and China.

“Russia is developing and deploying capabilities to actively deny access to and use of  space by the United States and its allies and partners,” Dickinson added. “Russia's tests of direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons clearly demonstrate that Russia continues to pursue counterspace weapon systems that undermine strategic stability and pose a threat to all nations.”

Quelle:  U.S. Space Command Public Affairs Office

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Update: 17.11.2021

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Space debris from Russian anti-satellite missile test spotted in telescope images and video

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