HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA and U.S. Space Command continue to monitor the debris cloud created by a recent Russian anti-satellite test. The International Space Station and crew members are safe and have resumed normal operations. The largest risk from the debris was in the first 24 hours and telemetry from the space station indicates no issues during that time. About 1:20 a.m. EST today, radial hatches extending from the space station’s center, including Kibo, Columbus, the Permanent Multipurpose Module, Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and Quest Joint Airlock, were reopened.
Following the incident, crew members were awoken, notified of the debris and asked to close specific hatches based on the space station’s safe haven procedures. Hatches between the U.S. and Russian segments also were closed initially, but were later opened when the higher risk period passed. Crew members’ daily tasks were adjusted during this time to accommodate the hatch closure. After closing the hatches, the crew then entered their Soyuz and Crew Dragon spacecraft for approximately two hours, from 2 a.m. – 4 a.m. EST. No debris avoidance maneuver was performed.
Space debris is tracked by Space Command and conjunction analysis is performed by NASA, with mitigations available for debris clouds and individual conjunction threats (such as debris avoidance maneuvers). If orbital debris were to strike the station and cause an air leak, the crew would close hatches to the affected module. If crew members do not have time to close the affected module, they would enter their respective spacecraft and, if necessary, undock from the space station to return to Earth.
This debris cloud that was just created has increased the risk to the station. The cataloging of the total number of identifiable pieces of debris is ongoing. Once the debris cloud is dispersed and items are tracked and catalogued, NASA will receive notifications of potential conjunction threats to the station and perform maneuvers as necessary. In addition, NASA will continue to perform visual inspections and review telemetry data to ensure vehicle health.
Teams are assessing the risk levels to conduct various mission activities. Any changes to launches, spacewalks, and other events will be updated as needed.
Suborbital launch used to be a sleepy field that rarely attracted much public attention. Let’s face it, atmospheric research and student experiments are not front-page news. Sounding rockets don’t have the majesty and power of a Falcon 9 or Atlas V.
In recent years, exciting new entrants in the field and widespread streaming of launches have made suborbital flights exciting. Last year saw important suborbital flight tests by SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Skyrora that garnered worldwide interest.
The following excerpts from the report summarize North Korea’s counterspace strategy and its launch vehicle and satellite programs.
North Korea has no demonstrated capability to mount kinetic attacks on U.S. space assets: neither a direct ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) nor a co-orbital system. In its official statements, North Korea has never mentioned anti-satellite operations or intent, suggesting that there is no clear doctrine in Pyongyang’s thinking at this point.
The following excerpt from the report summarizes France’s counterspace capabilities.
While France has long had a space program, as well as military satellites, it was not until very recently that France had an explicit focus on offensive and defensive counterspace capabilities.
The major change occurred in July 2019 with the release of the first French Space Defense Strategy, which elevated French military space organization and reassigned control of French military satellites from the French space agency to the military.
The following excerpts from the report summarize India”s growing counterspace programs and its anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons tests in 2019.
India has over five decades of experience with space capabilities, but most of that has been civil in focus. It is only in the past several years that India has started organizationally making way for its military to become active users and creating explicit military space capabilities.
The following excerpt from the report summarizes China’s counterspace capabilities.
The evidence strongly indicates that China has a sustained effort to develop a broad range of counterspace capabilities. China has conducted multiple tests of technologies for rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in both low earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous orbit (GEO) that could lead to a co-orbital ASAT capability.
The following excerpt from the report summarizes Russia’s counterspace capabilities.
There is strong evidence that Russia has embarked on a set of programs over the last decade to regain many of its Cold War-era counterspace capabilities. Since 2010, Russia has been testing technologies for rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in both low Earth orbit 9LEO) and geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) that could lead to or support a co-orbital anti-satellite (ASAT) capability. Evidence suggests at least two active programs: a new co-orbital ASAT program called Burevestnik that is potentially supported by a surveillance and tracking program called Nivelir.
by Director of Program Planning Brian Weeden and Washington Office Director Victoria Samson Secure World Foundation
Over the last several years, there has been growing concern from multiple governments over the reliance on vulnerable space capabilities for national security, and the corresponding proliferation of offensive counterspace capabilities that could be used to disrupt, deny the use of, degrade, or destroy space systems.
This in turn has led to increased rhetoric from some countries about the need to prepare for future conflicts on Earth to extend into space, and calls from some corners to increase the development of offensive counterspace capabilities and put in place more aggressive policies and postures.
Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine how China is seeking to shape the governance of space activities. [Full Report]
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
China’s actions in asserting sovereignty over the disputed South China Sea could serve as a model by which that nation would claim extraterrestrial resources and consolidate its control over key space assets, a new report to the U.S. Congress warned.
“Contrary to international norms governing the exploration and commercial exploitation of space, statements from senior Chinese officials signal Beijing’s belief in its right to claim use of space-based resources in the absence of a clear legal framework specifically regulating mining in space,” according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 report.
Media Monitors reports that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese leader Hu Jintao issued a joint statement on Wednesday saying the two nations would work together for a treaty toÂ ban the militarization of space.
Russian FM Lavrov Against Arms Race in Space, Wants Efforts United RIA Novosti
Russia’s foreign minister said Saturday that an arms race in outer space is inadmissible and called on other world powers to unite efforts in countering missile threats.
“Prevention of an arms race in space will contribute to ensuring the predictability of the strategic situation and preserving the orbital property,” Sergei Lavrov told a disarmament conference in Geneva, adding that all states using space objects for civilian purposes should be interested in it.
The conservative Washington Times newspaper published an editorial on Friday that heated up the rhetoric surrounding a recent collision between American and Russian satellites:
Russian Maj. Gen. Leonid Shershnev surprised us Tuesday with his strange charge that the United States had engineered the collision between America’s Iridium 33 and Russia’s Cosmos 2251 satellites over Siberia on Feb. 10. More shockingly, Russia’s deputy defense minister, Gen. Valentin Popovkin, said Thursday that Russia was working on anti-satellite technology and already had the “basic, key elements” of such weapons.