The International Space Station (ISS) was forced to shift its position temporarily in order to avoid incoming space debris that came from a broken Russian satellite.
At approximately 8:25 p.m on Monday, the huge orbiter's thrusters fired for 5 about five minutes in what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration called a 'Predetermined Debris Avoidance Maneuver' to boost its path length away from a ruined Russian satellite called the Cosmos 1408.
According to the space agency, the maneuver elevated the space station's altitude by 0.2 to 0.8 mile. Without the maneuver, the space debris might have approached the ISS within around 3 miles.
NASA said that Russia obliterated the satellite using a missile in November 2021, resulting in approximately 1,500 pieces chunks of debris scattering throughout space. Officials in the United States denounced the anti-satellite missile test launch, asserting it might result in even more pieces of debris being scattered in the years ahead.
'Pieces larger than a millimeter number about 100 million, while objects between 1 cm and 10 cm in diameter number about 500,000, and 25,000 pieces of debris larger than 10 cm are known to exist,' the space agency said.
This isn't the first time the ISS has been forced to shift its position, as a similar incident occurred in June when the space station avoided space junk generated by the Russian anti-satellite test. In January, a fragment of space junk coming from the same missile test entered the striking distance of a Chinese satellite, an experience the Chinese government defined as extremely reckless and dangerous.
According to NASA, the ISS is mandated to alter its path once a year in order to avoid potential accidents with space debris if the likelihood of a collision is greater than 10,000.
The space agency reported at least 26,000 pieces of space debris orbiting the Earth are large enough to decimate a satellite, and over 500,000 debris fragments are pebble-sized and can harm spacecraft, while 'over 100 million pieces are the size of a grain of salt and can puncture a spacesuit.'
Russia previously announced that it intends to leave and cut ties with the International Space Station and stop its long-term alliance with NASA at the orbiting outpost, which is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2031.