HOUSTON – During NASA’s daily planning conference Wednesday evening, the crew of seven aboard the International Space Station learned that their flight control teams in Houston were assessing options for a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) within a day’s time to dodge debris from a satellite destroyed last year in a Russian weapons test, according to NASA and CBS Space Reporter William Harwood.
The debris would continue to be tracked overnight before a final decision was made, NASA spokesman Mark Garcia said. Should Houston commit to PDAM on Thursday, NASA said that initial plans would not impact the un-crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, currently set for 6:54 p.m., according to Spaceflight Now.
It would not be the first time the orbiting laboratory has had to contend with debris over the last several years.
A Russian spacecraft attached to the space station was used to lower the station’s orbit in December 2021 to avoid debris from a NASA Pegasus satellite launched in 1994. In September 2020, mission managers decided to move the station on short notice to avoid debris expected to come within one mile of the ISS, keeping the three astronauts on board at the time in a Russian spacecraft throughout the maneuver just in case things went wrong. In May 2021, NASA shared photographs of where debris actually managed to strike the station, leaving a hole in one of the ISS’s robotic arms.
Even Thursday’s potential for PDAM has a bit of history. The November 2021 Russian anti-satellite weapons test that scattered the debris that the ISS could have to dodge was slammed by U.S. officials, including NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who called it unconscionable.
“It’s unbelievable that the Russian government would do this test and threaten not only international astronauts, but their own cosmonauts that are on board the station,” Nelson told the Associated Press. “I don’t want it to be threatened . . . You’ve got to operate it together.”