On Monday Moscow Standard Time, the International Space Station (ISS) Flight Control team was notified of indications of a satellite breakup that may create sufficient debris to pose a conjunction threat to the station.
A NASA statement said it is collecting information regarding a space debris incident that forced the crew on the ISS to transfer to spaceships. This was reported to TASS on Monday by a spokesman for the department, Lee Cashier, commenting on CNN’s allegations that the wreckage could have appeared due to Russia’s testing of anti-satellite weapons.
“We are collecting relevant information,” the source said. He added that it would be published at a later date.
According to CNN, citing two unnamed American officials, the wreckage could have appeared due to Russian tests of anti-satellite weapons.
Threat to ISS
On Monday, the ISS approached space debris several times. This information came from the Mission Control Center in Houston. During the first two encounters with the wreckage, Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Petr Dubrov and American astronaut Mark Vande Hai moved to Soyuz MS-19. American astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, and German astronaut Matthias Maurer – onboard Crew Dragon.
Head of NASA Bill Nelson said that the actions of the Russian Federation endangered not only American but also Russian cosmonauts and threatened the Chinese station. “Due to the debris generated by the destructive testing of Russian anti-satellite systems, astronauts and cosmonauts of the International Space Station took urgent measures to ensure safety,” Nelson said in a statement posted on the space agency’s website.
“The space station passes through or near the cloud every 90 minutes, but it was only necessary to take cover in the second and third pass; this conclusion was made on the basis of a risk assessment,” Nelson added.
Accusations and counter-accusations
Cosmos-1408, the satellite, is suspected to be to have disintegrated late Nov. 14 or early Nov. 15 Eastern time, based on commercial and government tracking data. Weighing about 2,000 kilograms, the satellite was launched in 1982. The defunct satellite was last tracked in orbit about 485 kilometres high.
“Earlier today, due to the debris generated by the destructive Russian Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, ISS astronauts and cosmonauts undertook emergency procedures for safety,” said Bill Nelson.
Last December too, the Pentagon accused Russia of testing a direct intercept anti-satellite missile. In April of the same year, the United States issued a similar statement. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova then called the statements of the commander of the US Space Force, General John Raymond, “a targeted campaign initiated by Washington to discredit Russian space activities and peaceful initiatives to prevent an arms race in outer space.” She also confirmed Russia’s readiness to discuss space activities with representatives of interested departments and organizations of both sides.
In August of this year, the general director of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin called the accusations of the American side in this regard as ordinary propaganda. He stressed that the United States “creates anti-satellite weapons themselves, tests them themselves.”
Roscosmos to meet NASA
Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin will hold a meeting on Tuesday with NASA representatives who have arrived in Moscow, during which, among other things, the issue of the ISS’s rapprochement with space debris will be discussed, a source in the rocket and space industry told TASS.
“Tomorrow (16th November) at 11:00 Moscow time, Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin will hold talks with NASA representatives. It is planned to discuss the rapprochement of space debris with the ISS, which took place on Monday,” the agency’s source said.
According to the source, the meeting was scheduled earlier; however, the range of issues discussed will be expanded due to the situation on Monday. From the American side, the head of the NASA program on the ISS Joel Montalbano and NASA assistant director Robert Cabana will take part in the negotiations.