The International Space Station acquired a little bit lighter final week.
The orbiting lab discarded a 2.9-ton (2.6 metric tons) pallet of used batteries on Thursday morning (March 11) — probably the most huge object it has ever jettisoned, NASA spokesperson Leah Cheshier told Gizmodo.
The space junk is predicted to fall again to Earth in two to 4 years, company officers wrote in an replace final week. That replace additionally acknowledged that the pallet will dissipate “harmlessly within the environment,” however not everyone seems to be satisfied that is the case.
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“This strikes me (haha, a pun given the circumstances) as harmful. It appears large and dense so unlikely to dissipate utterly,” astronomer and writer Phil Plait, whose “Dangerous Astronomy” weblog runs on Syfy Wire, wrote on Twitter Thursday.
“Sure. Then again e.g. Tiangong-1 was 7500 kg [kilograms], a lot greater. However I might say given how dense EP9 is, it is regarding, albeit on the low finish of regarding,” responded astronomer and satellite Jonathan McDowell, who’s based mostly on the Harvard-Smithsonian Heart for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Tiangong-1 was China’s first prototype house station, which hosted astronaut crews in 2012 and 2013. The varsity-bus-sized craft ended up crashing back to Earth over the southern Pacific Ocean in April 2018.
EP9, quick for “Uncovered Pallet 9,” is the not too long ago jettisoned object. EP9 got here to the station final 12 months on a Japanese H-II Switch Car (HTV), as a part of the hassle to interchange the orbiting lab’s previous nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion ones — an prolonged course of that has required a variety of spacewalks over the previous 5 years.
Beforehand, the previous batteries have been packed into the disposable HTV, which carried them all the way down to their doom in Earth’s environment. However the October 2018 launch failure of a Soyuz rocket carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin disrupted this sample, Spaceflight Now reported. (Hague and Ovchinin ended up touchdown safely, due to their Soyuz capsule’s launch-abort system.) And EP9 got here up on the ninth and remaining HTV, that means it was left with out a doomsday experience.
So house station managers determined to jettison the battery-packed pallet. On Thursday morning, floor controllers at NASA’s Johnson House Heart in Houston commanded the orbiting lab’s 57.7-foot-long (17.6 meters) robotic arm to launch EP9 into orbit, NASA officers wrote within the replace.
The SUV-sized pallet has loads of space-junk firm up there. According to the European Space Agency, researchers estimate that Earth orbit is cluttered with about 34,000 particles objects not less than four inches (10 centimeters) extensive and 128 million items which might be 1 millimeter throughout or bigger.
Mike Wall is the writer of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a ebook in regards to the seek for alien life. Comply with him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Comply with us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Fb.