Tuesday, December 01, 2009

NASA: debris no threat to space station

An approaching piece of satellite debris poses no risk of colliding with the International Space Station, NASA has determined.

The less than four-inch diameter piece of a Russian Cosmos satellite was expected to pass within a mile of the outpost at 1:19 p.m.

However, flight directors will not ask American astronaut Jeff Williams or Russian Max Suraev, who have been asleep, to take shelter in their Soyuz spacecraft.

Williams and Suraev are the only two remaining station residents after three crewmates departed late Monday night and landed early today in Kazakhstan.

Concern that a solar array wing problem could affect the outpost's ability to maintain its proper trajectory did not become a problem.

Two sets of array wings on the station's left side were locked because a latch on an assembly used to rotate one of them was partially open, in an unstable position.

It was possible that the locked wings would have influenced the station's steering gyroscopes, potentially causing Russian thrusters to fire and shifting the station's orbit as the debris closed in. However, that scenario never arose.

The object's small size made it difficult to track, NASA officials said, but the issues was cleared roughly an hour before its closest approach.

Click here to read an earlier post about the debris threat.

IMAGE: Surrounded by the blackness of space, the International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-129 crew member on Atlantis soon after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation. Undocking of the two spacecraft occurred Nov. 25, 2009. Credit: NASA.

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