Experts from Nasa and the CSA found that the damage was limited to a small section of the "arm boom and thermal blanket.(Nasa/CSA)
Experts from Nasa and the CSA found that the damage was limited to a small section of the "arm boom and thermal blanket.(Nasa/CSA)

Orbital debris hits International Space Station, punches hole in robotic arm

  • Nasa and the Canadian Space Agency first noticed the damage to a robotic arm of the International Space Station during a routine inspection on May 12.
By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Kunal Gaurav, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUN 02, 2021 08:39 PM IST

A robotic arm of the International Space Station (ISS) is still functioning after being hit by orbital debris last month, according to the Canadian Space Agency. Nasa and the CSA first noticed the damage to Canadarm2 during a routine inspection on May 12. The experts from both space agencies took detailed images of the area and assessed the impact on one of Canadarm2's boom segments. They found that the damage was limited to a small section of the "arm boom and thermal blanket."

“Despite the impact, results of the ongoing analysis indicate that the arm's performance remains unaffected. The damage is limited to a small section of the arm boom and thermal blanket. A hole approximately 5mm in diameter is visible,” the CSA said in a statement.

The amount of orbital debris is continuously increasing as countries are launching space missions more than ever, according to a report jointly prepared by the European Space Agency and UN Office for Outer Space Affairs. The dramatic increase in the number of space launches in the past few years, especially from private companies, has compounded the problem of space junk.

Also Read | China's rocket debris spurs calls for policies to mitigate space junk

Thousands of tons of debris - composed of defunct satellites, rocket bodies and parts of old satellites - pose risk to functional satellites, the ISS, and future missions. Nasa said in its January report that at least 26,000 pieces of space junk that are the size of a softball or larger could destroy a satellite on impact. It warned that over 500,000 pieces of debris are the size of a marble, big enough to cause damage to spacecraft or satellites, and over “100 million the size of a grain of salt that could puncture a spacesuit.”

“The threat of collisions is taken very seriously. Nasa has a long-standing set of guidelines to ensure the safety of Station crew. The safety of astronauts on board the orbiting laboratory remains the top priority of all Station partners,” the CSA said.

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