Space Junk May Force Shuttle, Station to Dodge

By | September 3, 2009

Space Junk May Force Shuttle, Station to Dodge

NASA is tracking a piece of rocket trash hurtling through space that may require the linked shuttle Discovery and International Space Station to move out of the way Thursday.

The space junk, an old piece of a spent Ariane 5 rocket body, is expected to zoom past the space station and Discovery on Friday and make its closest approach just after 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) at a distance of just over 6.2 miles (10 km), NASA spokesperson Rob Navias said during mission commentary.

“We may not have to do any maneuver,” Navias said Wednesday. “We will be analyzing the data and watching this object closely over the next 24 hours before any decision will have to be made.”

Currently, moving the space station is a “remote possibility,” but NASA will monitor the object just to be sure, Navias added.

NASA is unsure of the exact size of the space debris, but believe it is part of a rocket that launched in August 2006 to send two communications satellites into orbit, a NASA spokesperson told SPACE.com.

Mission Control radioed Discovery commander Rick Sturckow Wednesday afternoon to say that if a maneuver is required, it would be performed after a planned spacewalk Thursday. It’s more likely no maneuver will be required, NASA officials said. Engineers discarded a third option to lower the shuttle-station complex, which would have delayed Thursday’s spacewalk to Friday, after deciding it wasn’t necessary.

Space debris has been a growing concern for the space station, shuttle missions and other satellites in low-Earth orbit since the Feb. 10 crash of an American communications satellite and a defunct Russian satellite. The orbital collision created two clouds of debris that have increased the risk to the space station and docked shuttles by about 6 percent to a 1-in-318 chance of a hit, NASA officials have said.

A leak in one of the small thrusters aboard Discovery has forced NASA to keep the shuttle’s small reaction control jets off-line. The larger thrusters are more powerful and engineers worked diligently earlier this week to make sure Discovery can fire those jets safely while attached to the space station.

Discovery’s crew is in the middle of a 13-day mission to deliver new science gear, supplies and a treadmill named after Stephen Colbert to the International Space Station. Three spacewalks are planned for the mission, one of which was performed late Tuesday.

via Trash in Space May Force Shuttle, Station to Dodge – Yahoo! News.

Someone needs to step up and clean up. Just get a big box. Put the junk in that box.  Shoot the box at the Sun. Done.

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