Friday, April 01, 2011

Station crew might dodge space debris

International Space Station managers are monitoring debris from a 2009 collision of satellites that could force the station and its three crew members to dodge out of the way later today.

An avoidance maneuver is currently planned for around 10:45 p.m. EST, but a final decision on whether it is necessary is expected three hours earlier.

NASA says there's a high degree of uncertainty in the trajectory of the space junk created when a defunct Russian satellite collided with an operational Iridium Communications satellite on Feb. 10, 2009.

Preliminary projections show the debris couold pass within about six miles of the station, which is orbiting 220 miles above the planet at a speed of 17,500 mph.

A firing of thrusters on Progress and European ATV spacecraft docked at the station would adjust the outpost's speed by half a meter per second to slightly change its orbit and move it out of potential danger.

Station commander Dmitry Kondratyev and flight engineers Cady Coleman and Paulo Nespoli have postponed some of today's planned activities to prepare for the maneuver.

The picture above shows Cape Canaveral viewed from the station as it passed overhead shortly before noon today. Below, six Endeavour astronauts at Kennedy Space Center were training for their planned April 19 launch to the station.

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