Russia dismisses claims it endangered ISS with missile strike on defunct satellite
The US accused Russia of striking a Soviet-era satellite and scattering more than 1,500 pieces of debris in low-earth orbit. Russia confirmed the test.
The incident caused the crew on the International Space Station (ISS) – which includes four Americans, one German and two Russians – to take cover.
The Russian defence ministry dismissed the US remarks as hypocritical.
It confirmed it destroyed the defunct satellite that had been in orbit since 1982.
Moscow said: “The US knows for certain that the resulting fragments, in terms of test time and orbital parameters, did not and will not pose a threat.”
The ISS team discussed evacuation and using spacesuits to face flying debris.
The crew were awakened and ordered to shelter in their docked capsules on Monday morning.
They emerged after two hours in the capsules and had to reopen hatches to the station’s individual labs every orbit near the satellite debris.
A fleck of paint can do significant damage when orbiting at 26,000kmh and large objects could cripple the ISS.
Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu said the strike was carried out “with surgical precision” without posing a threat to the ISS.
On a Nasa video, Raja Chari, commander of Nasa’s Crew 3 mission, went through evacuation procedures with Mission Control in Houston and discussed the response to a direct hit on the ISS.
The redundant Russian satellite Cosmos 1408 was orbiting around 70km higher than the ISS.
Bill Nelson, Nasa’s administrator, said he was “outraged” by Russia’s missile test, calling it “irresponsible and destabilising”.
He said the Russian missile also threatened China’s space station.
Nelson said the ISS crew now face four times greater risk than normal based on debris big enough to track while hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces remain undetected. “Any one of which can do enormous damage if it hits in the right place,” the Nasa chief said.
“With its long and storied history in human spaceflight, it is unthinkable that Russia would endanger not only the American and international partner astronauts on the ISS but also their own cosmonauts,” Nelson said, in an unusually forthright statement.
The International Space Station. Space appears to be an increasing area for weapons development among China, the US and Russia. Picture credit: Wikimedia