November 15, 2021

ISS Initiates Safe Haven Procedures

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The ISS is returning to a normal configuration after two close passes with space debris, and crew initiated “safe haven” protocols. Under these procedures, astronauts treat vehicles as “lifeboats” and prepare for the possibility of an emergency departure. 

  • “In order to dodge the ‘space junk’, specialists…have calculated how to correct the orbit of the International Space Station,” Roscosmos said. 

Early in the morning, astronauts took refuge on two spaceships docked with the ISS after close projected space debris flybys. The astronauts took the measure and prepared for a potential hazardous collision between “debris field,” “debris cloud,” and the ISS. 

  • Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov and US astronaut Mark Vande Hei boarded the Soyuz MS-19, while NASA’s Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron and ESA’s Matthias Maurer boarded Crew Dragon.
  • Additional info on the debris’ origin isn’t known at the moment. 

More details (as of 9AM EST): According to TASS, NASA and Roscsomos expected space debris to fly past the ISS at 10:06 AM Moscow time (1:06 AM in Houston), and again from 11:38–11:44 AM (2:38–2:44 AM CST).

Russian and American sources told CBS that “more encounters may be possible.” And though crews are back inside the ISS—and hatches between segments are open—some modules are still sealed off as a precaution, per CBS’s William Harwood. 

Big picture: Last week, we saw a similar incident and ISS avoidance maneuver. The problem of hazardous debris is getting worse, we wrote then, increasing the risk of a collision and frequency of ISS maneuvers. We didn’t realize just how soon we’d be writing the same type of story again.