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NASA restores spaceflight after dismissing the immediate threat of orbital debris

© Reuters. PHOTO PHOTO: Staff pressurizes NASA logo at the Vehicle Assembly Building on the Falcon 9 rocket that SpaceX will send two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.


By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – A spacewalk scheduled for Tuesday to replace a faulty antenna at the International Space Station has been delayed by 48 hours after the mission controls concluded that the position of the said orbital debris due to the delay posed no risk to the repair operation, NASA said. .

Two U.S. astronauts were due to leave the space station on Tuesday morning to begin work, despite NASA officials acknowledging a slightly higher level of risk of debris scattered in Earth orbit this month by a Russian anti-satellite missile test.

But about five hours before the start of the departure, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that the spacewalk had been temporarily suspended after warning the mission control that the U.S. military had detected debris that the Space Surveillance Network could collide with the space station. The origin of the waste was not clarified in a NASA forecast.

On Tuesday evening, NASA said the assessment of the situation “does not pose a risk to the space orbit of the spacecraft or the operation of the space stations.”

Antenna repairs were scheduled for Thursday, with 61-year-old Tom Marshburn and 34-year-old Kayla Barron astronauts scheduled for a 6-and-a-half-hour spacewalk starting at 7:10 a.m. EST (1210 GMT).

NASA spokesman Gary Jordan said no information is available on the size of the debris, its proximity to the space station, whether it is orbiting about 250 miles (402 km) above Earth, or whether one or more objects were involved.

“We have no indication that this is related” to the Russian missile test a week earlier, Jordan told Reuters in an email.

The planned “extra-vehicular activity” or EVA, Marshburn, will mark the fifth spacewalk of a former doctor and flight surgeon who has previously made two trips to orbit, and the first for Barron, the U.S. Navy’s first submarine space flight and nuclear engineer. For NASA.

Their goal is to remove the faulty S-band radio communication antenna, which is now more than 20 years old, and replace it with another spare one stored outside the space station.

According to plans, Marshburn will work with Barron while positioned at the end of a robotic arm operated from inside the station, with the help of German astronaut Matthias Maurer, Raja Chari of the European Space Agency.

Laura arrived at the station on Nov. 11 in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut already in the space lab.

Four days later, Russia launched a missile at an unannounced space weapons test on one of the missing satellites, creating a large orbital debris that caused an emergency at the space station. All seven crew members took refuge in the spacecraft in the port to make a quick escape until the immediate danger passed, according to NASA.

The cloud of the exploded satellite has since been scattered, according to Dana Weigel, deputy director of NASA’s space station program.

But NASA estimates that the remaining parts remain at “slightly higher” background risk in orbit across the platform, and that the risk of drilling spacecraft suits is 7% higher than before the Russian missile test, Weigel told reporters Monday. .

Although NASA does not yet have to fully quantify the risks posed by the largest 1,700 parts that remain around the orbit of the station, the 7% higher risk for space walkers lies within the observed fluctuations in the “natural environment,” Weigel said.

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