International Space Station Maneuvers To Avoid ASAT Debris



Credit: NASA

The seven-person International Space Station (ISS) conducted an altitude-raising maneuver late Oct. 24 to avoid orbital debris associated with a former Soviet electronic and signals intelligence satellite that was the target of a November 2021 Russian anti-satellite test.

The roughly 5-min. Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM), which was initiated at 8:25 p.m. EDT using propulsion from the Russian Progress 81 resupply capsule docked to the station’s Russian Zvezda module, had no impact on operations underway aboard the orbital science laboratory, according to a follow-up NASA status report.

The maneuver increased the apogee, or highest point in the ISS’ orbit, by 2/10ths of a mile, and the perigee, or lowest point, by 8/10ths of a mile. “Without the maneuver, it was predicted that the fragment could have passed within about three miles from the station,” according to the status update.

The Nov. 15, 2021, Russian anti-satellite test, which destroyed the inoperative Cosmos 1408 satellite, prompted global protests and created a cloud of orbital debris that included approximately 1,500 fragments large enough to be tracked, according to the NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive.

The avoidance maneuver was carried out on the eve of Russia’s planned launch of the Progress 82 resupply mission to the ISS from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

The launch is planned for Oct. 25 at 8:20 p.m. EDT. Progress 82 is to deliver three tons of food, supplies and propellant to the ISS Expedition 68 crew, which includes three NASA astronauts, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut and three cosmonauts, including current ISS Commander Sergey Prokopyev.

With a successful launch, the Progress 82 is to make an automated docking with the Russian Poisk module on Oct. 27 at 10:49 p.m. EDT.

Progress 81, which provided thrust for the debris avoidance maneuver, arrived at the ISS on June 3. Russia’s Progress 80 resupply capsule, which launched and docked in mid-February, departed the Russian segment Poisk module late Oct. 23 to free a docking port for Progress 82 and carry out a destructive atmospheric re-entry maneuver over the Pacific Ocean.

Mark Carreau

Mark is based in Houston, where he has written on aerospace for more than 25 years. While at the Houston Chronicle, he was recognized by the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation in 2006 for his professional contributions to the public understanding of America's space program through news reporting.


1 Comment
Unfortunately it will not be the last time. Avoiding low orbits space debris is still possible today but in a few years, it will be even more challenging. Risks of collisions will increase exponentially and, there will be collisions. Since years low earth orbit cleaning is regularly addressed in conferences and in aerospace magazines, but so far, there is no killer app. All what I have read on this subject look more like wishful thinking or not practical. On the other hand, we have seen development of new launchers, which are much cheaper than the legacy ones and nowadays small satellites are popping up all over. Therefore, I still believe that there are sufficient bright and young engineers here on earth who will come with good ideas how to clean space even if myself, I still cannot make up my mind how to practically do it. So young entrepreneurs and engineers wake up and come up with new concepts, which will work.