Friday, January 13, 2012

Space station dodges satellite debris

Engines successfully fired this morning to maneuver the International Space Station out of the way of debris that threatened to collide with the outpost housing six astronauts and cosmonauts.

Ground controllers fired engines on the Russian segment's Zvezda Service Module for 54 seconds at 11:10 a.m. EST while the station crew, including Americans Dan Burbank and Don Pettit, went about its daily work undisturbed.

"At this point, the indications are that the Debris Avoidance Maneuver was carried out as planned and carried out successfully," a NASA TV commentator said.

NASA said U.S. Space Command informed the space station flight control team late Wednesday that it was tracking a piece of Iridium 33 satellite debris that could swing near the station twice this afternoon.

Further analysis confirmed Thursday that the debris, estimated at 10 centimeters in diameter, had the potential to collide with the station, prompting this morning's maneuver.

Today's engine burn eliminated the need for a reboost of the station's orbit that was planned next week to position it for the docking of an unmanned Russian cargo resupply spacecraft, scheduled Jan. 27.

IMAGE: This picture of the International Space Station was photographed from space shuttle Atlantis as the orbiting complex and the shuttle performed their relative separation in the early hours of July 19, 2011. Credit: NASA

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