NASA delays spacewalk over debris near space station

Delay comes 2 weeks after crew ordered to seek shelter following Russian missile test

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In this image from video provided by NASA, the International Space Station is seen as astronauts in the SpaceX Dragon capsule undock on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, (NASA via AP)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Concerns over space debris have delayed Tuesday’s planned spacewalk at the International Space Station.

Two U.S. astronauts were set to replace a bad antenna outside of the space station. But late Monday night, Mission Control learned that a piece of orbiting debris might come dangerously close. There wasn’t enough time to assess the threat so station managers delayed the spacewalk for at least a few days.

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The notification comes just days after a field of debris got uncomfortably close to the space station following a missile test by Russia.

It’s the first time a spacewalk has been canceled because of threat from space junk.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the object of concern was part of the Russian satellite wreckage. During a news conference Monday, NASA officials said the Nov. 15 missile test resulted in at least 1,700 satellite pieces big enough to track, and thousands more too small to be observed from the ground but still able to pierce a spacewalker’s suit.

NASA officials said astronauts Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron faced a 7% greater risk of a spacewalk puncture because of the Russian-generated debris. But they said it was still within acceptable limits based on previous experience.

Marshburn and Barron arrived at the space station earlier this month.

The spacewalk wasn’t the only thing affected by space debris. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter Tuesday that the company has had to shift the orbits of Starlink satellites because of the collision risk.

SpaceX has been launching thousands of Starlink satellites to create a network to bring internet access to underserved areas.

There is another Starlink launch planned for Wednesday evening from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch will take place at 6:20 p.m. from Space Launch Complex 40.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About the Author:

Cathleigh is a newscast producer and has been with News 6 since 2014. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a degree in communications, with a focus in broadcast journalism. Cathleigh produces the 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. newscasts.