In a move that seems like it came right out of a science-fiction or action movie, an incident just went down with a missile test, a foreign government, and the International Space Station. It has some folks in the United States more than a little concerned and those aboard the ISS a bit shaken. According to ABC reporting, Russia performed a missile test on a now-destroyed satellite that ended up scattering thousands of pieces of debris in space. While the missile strike didn’t target the International Space Station specifically, those aboard the space station did have to seek cover while on board because there was fear the ship might be compromised.
The incident went down on Monday when the Russian military sent a missile strike up into space aimed at an old satellite that was no longer in use. Apparently, their test was a “success” when they destroyed a Kosmos 1408 satellite that was orbiting Earth about 300 miles above the ground. While this might seem like an “innocent” little case of the Russian military testing out its anti-satellite weaponry, the secondary side effects are severe. That’s because satellites in orbit around Earth aren’t stationary, far from it. Like the International Space Station, they are actually moving around the Earth at incredible speeds, sometimes up to 17,000 miles per hour. It’s why a satellite can circle the planet in just 90 minutes. When the Russians exploded this satellite, the debris became incredibly dangerous shrapnel, now hurtling around the globe and causing a threat for anything else in orbit.
While the anti-satellite missile strike wasn’t against the International Space Station, the after-effects of the incident could put it, and the astronauts aboard it, in danger for time to come. New images in the aftermath of the explosion show a line of debris that almost looks like a space snake, sitting in roughly the same orbit as the original satellite. There is fear that the International Space Station could be in harm’s way along with many, many other satellites that are moving around in orbit. Experts are still trying to determine the extent to which other things could be damaged.
The European Union Space Surveillance and Tracking group released a video that attempted to lend a visualization to just how this new debris could impact other satellites in orbit. They mentioned the International Space Station as well, reaffirming that the ISS could be in danger now. Check it out:
Russia has apparently attempted to downplay the damage done with their missile test, saying that the debris doesn’t pose any real threat. They even said the United States has performed similar tests in the past. Though they maybe didn’t put the ISS in danger, the Russians have intimated that the reaction to this latest incident is being overblown. And it’s also worth mentioning that there are Russians aboard the International Space Station right now. Considering it’s a joint venture between the five different space agencies, it’s unlikely they would have performed a test they believed was going to put the ISS in real danger.
We are sure to continue getting updates on this Russian missile test and the threat it does or doesn’t pose to the International Space Station.