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

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


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

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

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But about five hours before the sortie began, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that the spacewalk had been temporarily canceled after mission control was alerted that the US Army Space Surveillance Network had detected debris that could collide with the space station. The origin of the debris was not specified in the NASA announcement.

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

The antenna repair has been postponed until Thursday, with astronauts Tom Marshburn, 61, and Kayla Barron, 34, ready to begin their scheduled 6.5-hour spacewalk starting at 7:10 a.m. EST (12:10 GMT).

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

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

Planned ‘extravehicular activity’, or EVA, will mark the fifth spacewalk for Marshburn, a medic and former air surgeon with two previous trips to orbit, and a first for Barron, a submarine officer Navy engineer and nuclear engineer on his first space flight for NASA.

Their goal is to remove a defective set of S-band radio communications antennas, which are now over 20 years old, and replace it with a new spare part stored outside the space station.

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

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

Four days later, Russia fired a missile at one of its own missing satellites in an unannounced space weapons test, generating a large field of orbital debris that sparked an emergency aboard the space station. The seven crew members rushed to take refuge in their docked spacecraft to allow a quick jaunt until the immediate danger passed, according to NASA.

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

But NASA calculates that the remaining fragments continue to pose a “slightly high” background risk to the orbiting platform as a whole, and a 7% higher risk of puncturing the astronauts’ suits, compared to before the test. Russian missile, Weigel told reporters on Monday. .

Although NASA has yet to fully quantify the dangers posed by the more than 1,700 larger fragments it tracks around the orbit of the station, the 7% higher risk for space walkers is fits “well within” the fluctuations previously seen in “the natural environment,” Weigel said. (Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Peter Cooney)

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