Friday, April 01, 2011

Station will dodge space junk tonight

Thrusters on two spacecraft docked at the International Space Station will fire at 10:36 p.m. today to nudge the outpost out of the way of debris from a February 2009 satellite collision.

Managers determined debris from the collision between the defunct Russian COSMOS 2251 satellite and operational Iridium 33 communications satellite could swing perilously close to the station. Earlier today, the debris was projected to cross with six miles of the station's orbital path.

A three-person station crew including an American, Italian and Russian will be in their sleep period when thrusters on European and Russian cargo spacecraft are fired to slightly change the station's orbit. Thrusters on the Zvezda service module also will help the station maintain proper position.

The move could have a small impact on the time of Monday's launch of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan, currently planned at 6:18 p.m. EST. An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts would dock at the station two days later.

Click here for more background on space debris.

IMAGE: The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-133 crew member on space shuttle Discovery after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation on March 7. Photo credit: NASA.

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