The International Space Station moved out of the way of space debris yet again this year, hours before a new cargo ship is supposed to arrive.
A Russian Progress cargo spacecraft attached to the International Space Station (ISS) fired its engines Friday (Nov. 10) in a space debris avoidance maneuver, Russian federal space agency Roscosmos officials wrote on Telegram; translation was provided automatically by Google. (Space.com reached out to NASA officials and is awaiting the agency’s confirmation of the maneuver, as well as the nature of the debris.)
The five-minute (316.5-second) engine burn took place at 10:07 a.m. EST (1507 GMT or 6:07 p.m. in Moscow), the statement from Roscosmos added, raising the orbit of the ISS by roughly 3,000 feet (900 meters). For comparison, the average ISS orbit is about 250 miles (400 km).
NASA has not yet disclosed what impact this maneuver, if confirmed, may have on ISS operations. A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft launched on Thursday (Nov. 8) is expected to arrive there in mere hours. Dragon should berth at the ISS at 3:45 a.m. EST (0845 GMT) tomorrow (Nov. 10), if there are no changes to the schedule.
Related: How often does the International Space Station have to dodge space debris?
While ISS debris-dodging maneuvers are meant to be conservative, the American football-field-sized complex is on the move more often than ever. As of December 2022, the ISS had moved out of the way from space debris 32 times since 1999, NASA officials noted in a quarterly debris report.
This orbital debris maneuvering count jumped to 37 occasions overall — and twice alone in the month of August 2023 — by the time the last report was available in the summer.
The ISS is not alone in having to move orbits more often, however. The accelerating number of satellites going to space — fueled by the shrinking size of satellites that subsequently increases launch affordability — is affecting numerous Earth-orbiting operations as debris risk mounts.