The United States said Monday it was investigating a “debris-causing incident in outer space” as astronauts aboard the International Space Station were forced to prepare for a possible evacuation.
It came amid unconfirmed reports that Russia had conducted an Anti-Satellite Weapon (ASAT) test – the rare show-of-force demonstrations were criticized by the space community as posing a risk to the crew in low Earth orbit. Huh.
The agency said, “The US Space Command is aware of a debris-generating event in outer space. We are working actively to mark the debris field and will continue to ensure that all space-oriented countries have Have the necessary information to affect satellites.”
“We are in the process of working with the State Department and NASA regarding these reports and will provide an update in the near future.”
NASA has yet to comment, but its Russian counterpart Roscosmos has underestimated the incident.
“The orbit of the object, which today forced the crew to board the spacecraft according to standard procedures, has moved away from ISS orbit. Station in Green Zone,” the agency tweeted.
“Guys, everything is regular with us! We continue to work according to schedule,” tweeted the current commander of the outpost Anton Shkaplerov.
Earlier, NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron and European Space Agency astronaut Mathias Maurer swam to safety in their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, according to a report in Spaceflight.
At the same time, Russian cosmonauts Shkaplerov, Pyotr Dubrov and NASA cosmonaut Mark Vande were aboard a Soyuz spacecraft on the Russian section, the outlet added.
Both spacecraft can be used as lifeboats to bring the crew back to Earth in an emergency.
US space industry analyst Serrata tweeted that the debris may have been caused by a missile test.
“ASAT missile attack now suspected. The Seradata SpaceTrack database orbital data had Kosmos 1408 (an old Soviet satellite) in a 487 x 461 km orbit – slightly higher than the ISS but not much,” the company tweeted.
“The ASAT strike on Kosmos 1408 will leave some debris beneath it … threatening the ISS with a crossing debris cloud.”
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