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Space Debris Threatened Crew Of ISS – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

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France and NATO have joined the United States in condemning Russia for conducting a missile test that blew up a defunct Russian satellite, creating a debris cloud that endangered the International Space Station (ISS) — an accusation dismissed by the Kremlin.

The anti-satellite missile test blew up a defunct Russian satellite on November 15, and generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and will likely generate hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces, U.S. officials said.

According to NASA, the debris forced the crew aboard the space station — four Americans, a German, and two Russians — to shelter into their docked spaceship capsules for two hours as a precaution to allow for a quick evacuation had it been necessary.

Without naming Russia, French Defense Minister Florence Parly on November 16 lashed out at “space vandals” who were producing dangerous amounts of debris, after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Moscow for its “dangerous and irresponsible” anti-satellite missile test. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson denounced Russia’s “reckless” action.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed it had conducted a weapons test targeting an unused Russian satellite that had been in orbit since 1982, insisting that the debris it generated “did not and will not pose a threat to orbital stations, spacecraft and space activities.”

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called accusations against Russia baseless, while a vague statement issued by Russian space agency Roskosmos said that it was monitoring the situation to “prevent and counter all possible threats to the safety” of the space laboratory orbiting at an altitude of about 420 kilometers.

The test highlights a growing space arms race among global powers, encompassing everything from systems to counter missile defense systems to anti-satellite operations.

Parly wrote on Twitter that “space is a common good belonging to the 7.7 billion inhabitants of our planet.”

“The space vandals have an overwhelming responsibility for generating debris that pollutes and puts our astronauts and satellites in danger,” she wrote, after announcing in a separate tweet the launch of three French military satellites.

Blinken warned the debris created by “this dangerous and irresponsible test” will now threaten satellites and other space objects “that are vital to all nations’ security, economic, and scientific interests for decades to come.

“In addition, it will significantly increase the risk to astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station and other human spaceflight activities,” he added.

Stoltenberg told journalists that the missile test “created a lot of debris, which is now a risk to the International Space Station and also to the Chinese space station — so this was a reckless act by Russia.”

NASA’s Nelson said he was “outraged” at the Russian test.

“With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS, but also their own cosmonauts,” Nelson said in a statement.

“Their actions are reckless and dangerous, threatening as well the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board,” he added.

U.S. Space Command said its initial assessment was that the debris will remain in orbit for years and potentially for decades, posing a long-term threat to the ISS and more than 3,000 active satellites from multiple countries.

In a sign of the strategic nature of the test, Space Command said Russia was developing and deploying capabilities to deny access to and use of space by the United States and its allies.

“Russia’s tests of direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons clearly demonstrate that Russia continues to pursue counterspace weapon systems that undermine strategic stability and pose a threat to all nations,” Space Command commander James Dickinson said.

“Russia, despite its claims of opposing the weaponization of outer space, is willing to jeopardize the long-term sustainability of outer space,” Blinken said, adding that the United States was discussing its response with partners.

At the UN General Assembly in September last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested an agreement among space powers to prohibit the placement of weapons in space, as well as the threat or use of force against outer space objects.

Anti-satellite weapons are high-tech missiles possessed by few countries.

India was the last to carry out a test on a target in 2019, in a move strongly criticized by other powers, including the United States.

The United States shot down a satellite in 2008 in response to China demonstrating a similar capability in 2007.

The U.S. and India tests were carried at much lower altitudes — well below the International Space Station — than the one conducted by Russia.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and TASS

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NASA aims to replace ISS with a commercial space station by 2030 – The Tribune

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Washington, Dec 1

The US space agency is planning to replace the International Space Station (ISS) with one or more commercial space stations by 2030.

NASA’s auditing body, the Office of Audits, has produced a report detailing the agency’s commitment to replace the orbiting lab with commercial space stations.

Astronauts have lived and worked onboard the ISS orbiting roughly 250 miles above the Earth’s surface for more than 20 years.

“The ISS costs about $3 billion a year, roughly a third of NASA’s annual human space flight budget, and while current plans call for the Station’s retirement in 2024, an extension to 2030 is likely,” the US space agency said in the audit report.

Anticipating its retirement, NASA has committed to replacing the ISS with one or more commercially owned and operated space destinations.

“In the fiscal year (FY) that ended September 30, 2021, Congress authorised $17 million to that end — a fraction of the $150 million the Agency said it needed. NASA’s plans for long-term, deep space human exploration missions depend on continuous access to a research laboratory in low-Earth orbit,” it added.

The Artemis mission, aimed at returning humans to the Moon and ultimately landing astronauts on Mars, is not feasible without continued human health research and technology demonstrations being conducted on the ISS and its eventual replacement.

“As long as humans intend to travel in space, NASA expects research and testing will be needed in the microgravity environment of low-Earth orbit,” the audio report mentioned.

While overall ISS operations and maintenance costs remained steady at about $1.1 billion a year from FY2016 through FY2020, systems maintenance and upgrade costs trended upward 35 per cent in the same 5-year period, rising to approximately $169 million in FY2020 due primarily to upgrades.

Meanwhile, NASA and Roscosmos are investigating the cause and long-term impacts of cracks and leaks that were recently discovered in the Station’s Service Module Transfer Tunnel, which connects the Service Module to one of eight docking ports on the Station.

“Causes being explored include structural fatigue, internal damage, external damage, and material defects. Notably, based on the models NASA used to assess the structure, the cracks should not have occurred, suggesting the possibility of an earlier-than-projected obsolescence for at least one element of the Station,” the US space agency noted. IANS

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Arctic rainfall could dominate snowfall earlier than expected: study – Global Times

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A view of Arctic Photo: VCG

Rainfall could start replacing snowfall in the Arctic decades sooner than previously thought, a study found Tuesday, warning the change caused by global warming could have effects beyond the region.

The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the planet, melting sea ice and adding moisture to the air that is likely to increase precipitation.

Comparing the latest projections to previous climate models, the study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications estimates the switch from snowfall-dominated annual precipitation to one dominated by rain will come about “one or two decades earlier.”

“Changes are going to be more severe and occur much earlier than projected and so will have huge implications for life in and beyond the Arctic,” the study’s main author Michelle McCrystall told AFP.

“In autumn, for example, when the greatest changes occur, the central Arctic may transition around 2070 in the latest set of models compared to 2090 in the previous set,” added McCrystall, a researcher at Canada’s University of Manitoba.

But everything depends on the degree of global warming.

At the current rate of warming rain could dominate snow in the Arctic before the end of the century, the study says. But it says limiting warming to 1.5 C could mean the Arctic stays dominated by snow.

Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the results “imply that the worst impacts can be avoided if countries match their stated intentions to cut emissions in line with the Paris agreement.”

But Schmidt added that he felt the study did not prove the change would come sooner than expected.

Whenever it comes, the switch from snow to rain is likely to have major effects on the Arctic ecosystem. 

More rainfall on top of current snow cover could lead to increased surface ice that would make it impossible for caribou and reindeer to forage for food.

Less snow cover also means the Arctic will lose some of its capacity to deflect solar heat and light away from the Earth’s surface and thus contribute to warming.

AFP

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NASA resets spacewalk after ruling out immediate threat from orbital debris – Financial Post

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A spacewalk planned for Tuesday to replace a faulty antenna on the International Space Station has been postponed for 48 hours, after mission control concluded that the position of orbital debris cited for the delay posed no risk to the repair operation, NASA said.

Two U.S. astronauts were originally due to venture outside the space station on Tuesday morning to begin their work, despite what NASA officials acknowledged was a slightly elevated risk level from debris scattered in low-Earth orbit by a Russian anti-satellite missile test this month.

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But about five hours before the outing was to have begun, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced the spacewalk had been temporarily called off after mission control was alerted that the U.S. military’s Space Surveillance Network had detected debris that could collide with the space station. The origin of the debris was not made clear in the NASA announcement.

On Tuesday afternoon, NASA said its evaluation of the situation “determined the orbit of the debris does not pose a risk to a scheduled spacewalk” or space station operations.

The antenna repair was rescheduled for Thursday, with astronauts Tom Marshburn, 61, and Kayla Barron, 34, set to begin their planned 6-1/2-hour spacewalk starting at 7:10 a.m. EST (1210 GMT).

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

“We have no indications that this is related” to the Russian missile test weeks earlier, Jordan added in an email to Reuters.

The planned “extravehicular activity,” or EVA, will mark the fifth spacewalk for Marshburn, a medical doctor and former flight surgeon with two previous trips to orbit, and a first for Barron, a U.S. Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer on her debut spaceflight for NASA.

Their objective is to remove a faulty S-band radio communications antenna assembly, now more than 20 years old, and replace it with a new spare stowed outside the space station.

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

The four arrived at the station on Nov. 11 in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, joining two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut already aboard the space laboratory.

Four days later, Russia fired a missile into one of its own defunct satellites in an unannounced space weapons test, generating a large orbital debris field that prompted an emergency aboard the space station. All seven crew members scrambled to take shelter in their docked spaceships to allow for a quick getaway until the immediate danger passed, according to NASA.

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The residual debris cloud from the blasted satellite has since dispersed, according to Dana Weigel, NASA deputy manager of the space station program.

But NASA calculates that remaining fragments continue to pose a “slightly elevated” background risk to the orbiting platform as a whole, and a 7% higher risk of spacewalkers’ suits being punctured, as compared to before Russia’s missile test, Weigel told reporters on Monday.

Although NASA has yet to fully quantify hazards posed by more than 1,700 larger fragments it is tracking around the station’s orbit, the 7% higher risk to spacewalkers falls “well within” fluctuations previously seen in “the natural environment,” Weigel said. (Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Peter Cooney)

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