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ISS Dumps 26,000kg Batteries, Earth Reacts!

March 12, 2024
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Photo by SpaceX on Pexels.com

The International Space Station (ISS) kicked out nine Nickel-Hydrogen batteries into space and made an entry back to Earth on March 9. The discard of 26,000 kilograms of Equipment Pallet 9 (EP9) along with batteries, done on January 11, 2021, has raised questions on space debris.

The EP9, equipped with nine discarded Nickel-Hydrogen batteries, embarked on its journey to the International Space Station (ISS) via Japan’s HTV-9 cargo ship on May 20, 2020.

Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, specializing in spaceflight and orbital activities, estimated that approximately 500 kg of the payload would survive re-entry and descend to Earth. On March 9 at 2:48 am, McDowell reported that the batteries re-entered the atmosphere over the Gulf of Mexico, between Cancun and Cuba.

Addressing concerns, the European Space Agency (ESA) issued an official statement on March 8, assuring that most of the debris would burn up upon re-entry, with a minimal risk of casualties. To date, no incidents of casualties have been reported.

How safe is space debris?

Space agencies face renewed scrutiny regarding space debris, which poses threats to both ground-based infrastructure and satellites in orbit. While falling debris has yet to cause fatalities or significant property damage, it remains a serious hazard, particularly in low-Earth orbit.

Spacecraft and satellites, including the habitable space station, are highly susceptible to debris travelling at high speeds. Previous incidents, such as China’s anti-satellite missile test in 2007 and Russia’s similar test in 2021, underscore the risks posed by space debris to space infrastructure.

Moreover, the accumulation of debris limits available space for new satellite deployments, complicating orbital planning and increasing the risk of collisions. It is essential to note that space agencies typically do not dispose of materials by ejecting them from the ISS.

Instead, astronauts seal waste either in spacecraft like SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon, which returns to Earth, or in capsules like Northrop Grumman’s, which burn up upon re-entry over designated ocean areas, ensuring controlled disposal.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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