April 22, 2024

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The International Space Station's space junk returns to the Earth's atmospheric battery platform

The International Space Station's space junk returns to the Earth's atmospheric battery platform

A shipping platform after being tossed by the Canadarm2 robotic arm in 2021.

A shipping platform after being tossed by the Canadarm2 robotic arm in 2021.
picture: NASA

On Friday, March 8, a batch of used batteries from the International Space Station (ISS) reentered Earth's atmosphere above the Gulf of Mexico after an unexpected trip through orbit.

The pallet contains nine batteries and weighs 2.9 tons. It has been It was launched by the Canadarm2 robotic arm in March 2021 Since then it has been heading towards Earth in an uncontrolled re-entry. The chaotic fall through orbit finally ended last week when the cargo platform re-entered on March 8 around 3:29 p.m. ET somewhere over Cancun and Cuba, according to Jonathan McDowellan astrophysicist who was tracking a piece of trash on the International Space Station.

However, it is not clear whether the entire platform burned up upon its return through Earth's atmosphere, or whether some parts of it escaped the heat. the European Space Agency The European Space Agency was also monitoring the pallet's return and estimated that some parts might reach Earth but the probability of hitting someone was very low. There have been no reports of injuries or damage since the object returned to Earth.

The pallet is the largest object ever launched from the International Space Station. It was launched to the space station in May 2020 by a Japanese cargo ship to help astronauts replace old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new, more efficient lithium-ion batteries. These batteries store the energy collected by the station's solar arrays.

It wasn't supposed to end this way for the old batteries, which were supposed to be placed inside a Japanese HTV cargo ship for proper disposal. However, a backlog in disposing of this type of equipment from the International Space Station forced NASA to simply throw the batteries into a charging pad using the space station's robotic arm, resulting in their uncontrolled return.

Uncontrolled reentry of massive objects like a battery platform is fairly uncommon, and most objects that meet their demise usually burn up through the Earth's atmosphere without leaving a trace behind. Space agencies typically accept a probability threshold of 1 in 10,000 for the risk of infection from a single uncontrolled reentry, according to European Space Agency. As the space industry continues to grow, it may become more difficult to monitor who is adhering to the rules, which could eventually lead to new regulations.

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