It has been an eventful week for SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts, who arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) a couple weeks ago on November 11 aboard the Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft. Crew-3 NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer, have been working at the ISS laboratory on science research and also completed a spacewalk.
Veteran NASA astronaut Marshburn and rookie astronaut Barron were scheduled to perform a spacewalk to swap up a ‘faulty’ antenna outside ISS on November 30, but their extravehicular activities got delayed due to a potential space debris threat that was orbiting near the orbiting laboratory every 90-minutes. NASA Mission Control in Houston, Texas, had to delay the spacewalk in order to track the debris cloud and assess the potential risk of impact to the Space Station. Initially, the agency did not provide any details about what the debris was. The debris threat came after Russia launched a missile to destroy one of its defunct Soviet-era satellites during an Anti-Satellite Test (ASAT) that took place on November 15. NASA leaders were upset at Russia’s carelessness to perform an ASAT without informing global space agencies, putting NASA/ESA astronauts and its own Russian cosmonauts in danger at ISS.
Agency officials suggested the new debris caused by the Russian missile strike was the reason for the spacewalk delay. “There are about 1,700 new [space debris] objects, larger objects that are being tracked,” Dana Weigel, NASA’s deputy manager of the space station, said on Monday during a news conference about the spacewalk. “It will take a few months to get all of those cataloged and into our normal debris tracking process, where we can then assess miss distances and how close these items get to the I.S.S.” NASA rescheduled the task after it assessed potential impact risks. NASA astronauts Marshburn and Barron conducted the spacewalk to replace the antenna a couple days later on December 2nd, while their crewmates assisted the operation from aboard ISS.
They concluded the spacewalk at 12:47 p.m. EST on Tuesday, after 6 hours and 32 minutes. “Marshburn and Barron successfully installed an S-band Antenna Subassembly (SASA) on the Port-1 truss structure and stowed the failed antenna. Additionally, the pair completed get-ahead tasks on the Port-4 truss structure, including resetting the torque on a set of bolts,” the agency shared in a press release. It was the first spacewalk for NASA astronaut Barron and the fifth for Marshburn.
Astronauts Kayla Barron & @AstroMarshburn installed an antenna during a spacewalk, @VP Harris chaired her first National Space Council meeting, and applications opened for new flight directors at @NASA_Johnson.— NASA (@NASA) December 4, 2021
These stories & more this week at NASA: https://t.co/7hQNER6zkz pic.twitter.com/uFcE7Gpv6R
A day after the spacewalk, on December 3rd, the Expedition 66 international astronauts had to coordinate Pre-determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) to modify the Space Station’s orbit in order to dodge space junk chunks of a decades-old Pegasus rocket that was launched in 1994. The PDAM was coordinated between NASA flight controllers and Russian ballistics officials that fired its Progress 79 spacecraft engine while docked to ISS. –“At 1:58 a.m. CST, 2:58 a.m. EST this morning, the Russian Progress 79, attached to the space station, fired its thrusters for 2 minutes and 41 seconds to slightly lower the station’s orbit,” the agency announced on Friday, “This maneuver provided a healthy margin of separation from a fragment of Pegasus rocket debris (object 39915) that ballistics specialists have been tracking. The Expedition 66 crew aboard the station is not in any additional danger,” NASA representatives stated. The Space Station’s orbit has been lowered by 3/10 of a mile at apogee and 4/10 of a mile at perigee. It is currently orbiting at 262.6 x 258.8 statute miles.
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