NASA cancels space station maneuver to clear orbital debris

NASA recently announced that it intended to change the orbit of the International Space Station slightly in an effort to avoid any potential contact with orbiting debris. Yesterday, NASA announced that the planned orbit change had been canceled because the debris that had caused the concern had been deemed to pose no risk to the space station. The debris that caused the alarm included remnants of an old Russian Cosmos satellite.

The worrisome debris also contained fragments of an Indian rocket. NASA issued the alert, continued to track the orbit of the debris, and determined with "a high degree of confidence" that neither piece of orbiting space junk posed a threat to the space station. Flight controllers in Russia agreed with NASA on the decision to cancel the orbital change.

Even tiny pieces of space debris orbiting the planet at massive velocities pose a significant threat to the space station and the crew onboard. Tiny pieces of debris moving at high speeds could puncture space station modules and potentially kill crew members. NASA planned to use the engines on the docked European cargo ship to alter the space station's orbit.

This is the same automated cargo ship that was unable to detach earlier this week due to a computer malfunction. Russian engineers have determined the reason the cargo ship was unable to detach from the space station and are prepared to make a second attempt to undock the unmanned ATV. The undocking attempt could possibly be made today.

[via MSNBC]