Record space junk cloud could threaten ISS: report

Oct 25, 2012

The explosion of a failed Russian rocket upper stage has created a space junk cloud of 500 pieces which could threaten the International Space Station, a report said Thursday.

In one of the biggest incidents of recent years the Briz-M rocket stage exploded in mid-October, two months after causing a key launch of telecom satellites to fail in the latest embarrassing mishap for the embattled Russian space programme.

"Right now there are about 500 pieces of debris that were created after the Briz-M upper stage broke apart," a source in the space industry told Interfax news agency.

The cloud "has been added to the list of potentially dangerous objects" for the ISS, the source added.

The ISS has in the past had to fire engines and use up precious fuel to change orbit and move away from potential space junk collisions.

The Briz-M is used with Russia's Proton rockets and weighs up to 22.5 tonnes without fuel, according to its creator the Khrunichev construction bureau.

Its entire production line went under high-profile inspection after the failed launch in August, which caused the firing of Khrunichev head Vladimir Nesterov amid a public dressing-down from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

on the lower- is a constant problem for the ISS, which is currently travelling about 414 kilometres (257 miles) above the Earth.

The current break-up creates a major potential headache for the ISS controllers, since even small pieces from rockets launched decades earlier can cripple satellites because they orbit at very high speeds.

According to a specialist unit of NASA that tracks orbital debris, there are more than 21,000 pieces of junk bigger than 10 centimetres (four inches) across.

The main source of the problem is satellites or upper stages of failed rocket launchers like the Briz-M which still hold fuel and explode while whirling in orbit.

Two events—the deliberate testing of an anti-satellite weapon by China in 2007 and the accidental collision of US and Russian communications satellites in 2009—added two major debris fields in recent years.

Explore further: SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Space debris a growing problem

Jun 28, 2011

A scare triggered by orbital debris that on Tuesday came within a couple of hundred metres (yards) of the International Space Station (ISS) sheds light on an acutely worsening problem. ...

ISS crew takes shelter to avoid passing space junk

Mar 24, 2012

A piece of an old Russian satellite whizzed by the International Space Station on Saturday, forcing its six-member crew to temporarily take shelter in two Soyuz escape capsules, officials said.

Space station to move to avoid debris

Oct 03, 2012

(AP)—The Russian space program's Mission Control Center says it will move the International Space Station into a different orbit to avoid possible collision with a fragment of debris.

Russia launches US telecoms satellite into orbit

Oct 06, 2011

Russian successfully launched a US Intelsat satellite into space late Wednesday, aboard a Zenit carrier rocket from the Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan, a Russian space agency official said.

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

5 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

11 hours ago

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

14 hours ago

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

14 hours ago

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

15 hours ago

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.