A satellite rupture that caused a “cloud” of debris pushed the seven membersto seal the hatches and take refuge in their Crew Dragon and Soyuz spacecraft on Monday, officials said.
Air traffic controllers in Houston have woken the crew to inform them of a possible close encounter, or “conjunction”.
“Station on space-earth 2 for a first awakening,” he called mission control. “We were recently notified of a satellite rupture and we need you guys to start reviewing the safe haven procedure.”
The crew was told to close the hatches between the US and Russian segments and to seal the modules extending radially from the long axis of the laboratory, which includes the European Space Agency’s Columbus module, Japan’s Kibo, the chamber US Quest equilibrium and NASA’s Tranquility module.
“Due to the nature of the satellite rupture, we expect to see this hazard every 90 minutes,” mission control radioed. “And while the ground teams are analyzing the situation, we expect to be able to stay in the configuration with the radial doors closed for up to a day.”
After taking cover in their respective spacecraft during the initial close approach period, the crew members were allowed to return inside the station and reopen the hatches between the US and Russian segments. The US crew was allowed to briefly open the side hatches as needed between possible encounters.
“Thanks for a crazy but well-coordinated day,” astronaut Mark Vande Hei said during an end-of-day planning conference with air traffic controllers in Houston. “We really appreciate all the situational awareness you have given us. And it has certainly been a great way to bond as a crew starting with our very first day of work in space!”
Crewmates Vande Hei and Soyuz MS-19 / 65S Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov were joined last Thursday by four new crew members whoferry ship.
“We really appreciate the patience of you guys,” mission control replied to Vande Hei. “It’s a crazy way to start a mission, we definitely understand that, and you guys have been soldiers in it all. We really appreciate it.”
Vande Hei said: “We look forward to a quieter day tomorrow.”
The origin of the debris is not yet confirmed, but UK-based Seradata, which manages the SpaceTrak commercial satellite database, has reported that the rupture may have involved Cosmos 1408, a Russian polar-orbiting spacecraft in electronic retirement.
The company tweeted that a Russian anti-satellite test may have been conducted, although it could not be confirmed immediately.
“An ASAT missile attack is now suspected,” the company tweeted. “The orbital data from the Seradata SpaceTrak database had Cosmos 1408 in an orbit of 487 x 461 km – a little higher than the ISS but not much. ASAT’s attack on Cosmos 1408 would have caused some debris to be thrown below. of it … threatening the ISS with an intersection of cloud debris. “
In an email, Air Force Major Annmarie Annicelli said that the US Space Command “is aware of an event generating debris in space. We are actively working to characterize the debris field and will continue to ensure that all nations space travelers have the information they need to maneuver satellites if hit. “
He said Space Command is working with the State Department and NASA on the reports “and will provide an update in the near future.”
US radar systems constantly track objects in low Earth orbit and calculate possible close approaches between spacecraft, giving priority to piloted vehicles such as the space station.
Depending on how close to the lab debris is expected to pass, the crew may be asked to take refuge in their respective spacecraft, ready to make a quick return to earth in the event of an impact.
During Monday’s meeting, Shkaplerov, Dubrov and Vande Hei took refuge in their Soyuz MS-19 / 65S spacecraft. The– Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer – sheltered in their “Endurance” capsule at the forward end of the space station.