The International Space Station (ISS) has been hit by a piece of space debris that has removed a piece from its 17-meter long robotic arm.
More than 23,000 objects the size of a tennis ball or larger are constantly monitored to detect possible collisions with satellites and the ISS, but a greater number of small objects – ranging from rock or dust particles to paint stains from satellites – are too small to monitor.
A routine inspection of Canadarm2 on May 12 uncovered a large hole believed to have been created by one of these undetected pieces of space debris.
The arm is used by the station residents to perform station maintenance, move supplies and grapple with visiting vehicles so they can dock successfully at the ISS.
Despite the hole, the arm continues to function within normal parameters, the Canadian space agency confirmed.
“The damage is limited to a small part of the arm tree and thermal blanket. Canadarm2 continues to carry out its planned operations,” it said.
The European Space Agency (ESA) recently published a report warning that space debris is a problem “on a global scale”.
The number of objects, their combined mass and their combined area has steadily increased since the dawn of the space age, leading to involuntary collisions between operational payloads and space debris, it said.
Newer technologies have enabled space agencies to track increasingly smaller particles in orbit in recent years, further highlighting the magnitude of the problem.
Smaller satellites designed to orbit the Earth in low Earth orbit are becoming more common, alongside services based on a network of dozens or even hundreds of satellites working together, such as SpaceX’s Starlink service.
Programs like this can exacerbate the space junk problem, especially if the satellites don’t run properly once they reach the end of their useful lives.
ESA noted that operators are increasingly adhering to measures to limit space debris, with controlled reentry of satellites into low Earth orbit increasing from 10 to 40 percent over the past decade.
“While the adoption of and adherence to space debris mitigation practices is slowly increasing globally, it is important to note that successful implementation is still at too low a level to sustain a sustainable environment in the long term.
guarantee, ‘says ESA. In September, the UK allocated £ 1 million to seven companies developing technology designed to remove pre-existing space debris from orbit.