25th February 2024 11:11 am
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ISS’s robotic arm struck by orbital debris in “lucky strike”

The recent incident involving a Long March 5B rocket from China re-entering Earth’s atmosphere uncontrolled may have made you aware of just how much junk is orbiting us.

While a lot of that space debris is big enough to track, some of it isn’t and a smaller piece of this debris recently hit a part of the International Space Station.

During a routine inspection of the Canadarm2 – a 17m robotic arm attached to the ISS used to move supplies, equipment, the Dextre robot and even catching visiting vehicles – a hole was discovered.

“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,” wrote the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

You can see the hole in the image below.

Credit: NASA/Canadian Space Agency

The CSA says that the arm will still be able to conduct its operations including moving the Dextre robot into position to replace a faulty power switchbox. With that having been said, CSA and NASA will continue to monitor the situation.

The CSA describes the incident as a “lucky strike” because the arm is just 35cm wide and 17.6m long.

Lucky is a strange way to describe this incident however, as the CSA reports that over 23 000 objects the size of a softball (a ball slightly larger than a cricket ball with a diameter of 9.7cm and a circumference of 30cm) are tracked 24/7 to detect potential collisions with the ISS. The problem is there are many smaller pieces of debris that can’t be tracked.

With all of that in mind, lucky isn’t the word we’d describe but at least the debris didn’t strike the hull of the ISS, that would have been a far worse story to report on.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

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