On Nov 15 Russia destroyed its satellite with a ground missile, creating thousands of small fragments of debris that have spread out into Earth’s orbit according to the US state department.
The department has recognized more than 15000 trackable pieces of debris from the explosion and many thousands are just untrackable and threaten the interests of all nations, Ned Price, a spokesperson of the state department, said during a briefing.
The threat also includes the astronauts on the international space station who were forced to take shelter inside the orbital lifeboats for about two hours and then repeated the exercise 90 mins later as the station passed another debris cloud.
To be safe NASA has canceled lots of activities that were planned.
“This test will majorly increase the risk to astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS as well as other human space flight activities,” said the spokesperson in the briefing.
“Russia’s dangerous and irresponsible behavior jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of our space and demonstrates that Russia’s claims of opposing weaponizing the space is hypocritical.
The US and Russia operate the international space station in partnership. NASA administrator Bill Nelson said that “With its long and storied history in human spaceflight it’s unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on ISS but their cosmonauts”. There are seven people currently living on the ISS, two of which are Russian cosmonauts.
“We are working to characterize the debris field”
The space command which generally overlooks the tracking of the objects in space said that it was “ aware of a debris generating event”.
The US command said, “we are actively working to characterize the debris field and will continue to ensure all nations have the information necessary to maneuver satellites if impacted.”
The US space command has been tracking ASAT tests from Russia over the last couple of years. In 2020, US Space Command reported two tests called Nudol. Both tests did not seem to destroy any targets in space.
Had a Crazy But Well-Organized Day!
During the first few debris passes, NASA astronauts sheltered inside the SpaceX crew dragon currently docked with ISS. Mission controllers directed the crew close to hatches to various modules on ISS sheltering.
Roscomos stated that “the crew is routinely performing operations according to the flight program” after sheltering.
NASA astronaut Mark Vande HEI said “Thanks for a crazy but well-coordinated day,” over the ISS live feed to mission controllers. He appreciated the work of the team and called this a great way to bond over the very first day in space. NASA says it will continue to monitor the debris and will make sure that the crew in ISS will remain safe.
ASAT tests are nothing but a political move to show the capability of the nation of striking out satellites. But in reality, they are just a source of concern for space for their ability to cause a giant field of satellite fragments. These fragments can travel miles jumping from higher and lower altitudes. At last, the debris pieces often vary in size, and they can sometimes stay in orbit for years, risking functioning satellites. If a fragment of space debris collides with another fast-moving satellite, it can cause huge damage or even create more pieces that then threaten other satellites.
The US State Department Is Strongly Critisizing The ASAT Test
In 2007, using a kinetic missile China also conducted an ASAT test to destroy its Fengyun 1C satellite. This event creates thousands of fragments that are still orbiting above earth.
Even ISS had to boost their orbit to avoid the collision with the fragment still in orbit.
In 2019, India also conducted its ASAT test, known as Mission Shakti, creating many debris pieces after destroying a decaying satellite.
Like that many countries have done ASAT tests till now.
But the test conducted by Russia is being considered reckless, dangerous, and irresponsible.
Also, Russia did not warn the US about the test.
However, the department didn’t share the “specific measures” that it would take in response but said that it would work with allies to make it clear that this kind of behavior won’t be tolerated by the international society.