WASHINGTON: An anti-satellite missile test Russia conducted on Monday generated a debris field in low-Earth orbit that endangered the International Space Station and will pose a hazard to space activities for years, U.S. officials said.
The seven-member space station crew – four U.S. astronauts, a German astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts – were directed to take shelter in their docked spaceship capsules for two hours after the test as a precaution to allow for a quick getaway had it been necessary, NASA said.
The research lab, orbiting about 250 miles (402 km) above Earth, continued to pass through or near the debris cluster every 90 minutes, but NASA specialists determined it was safe for the crew to return to the station’s interior after the third pass, the agency said.
The crew was also ordered to seal off hatches to several modules of the International Space Station (ISS) for the time being, according to NASA.
“NASA will continue monitoring the debris in the coming days and beyond to ensure the safety of our crew in orbit,” NASA chief Bill Nelson said in the statement.
Experts say the testing of weapons that shatter satellites in orbit pose a space hazard by creating clouds of fragments that can collide with other objects, setting off a chain reaction of projectiles through Earth orbit.