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‘Space junk’ collides with ISS, damages robotic arm

Canadarm2 remains in operation despite taking a hit from a small piece of space debris. Image: Canadian Space Agency

Space Connect reports that a small piece of ‘space junk’ has collided with a part of the International Space Station, leaving behind a five-millimetre hole in a robotic arm of the facility, according to the Canadian Space Agency.

Following a routine inspection of one of the ISS’ robotic arms, dubbed Canadarm2, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) located a visible hole “approximately five millimetres in diameter”, following an assumed collision with unidentified ‘space junk’.

Canadarm2 is a 17.6-metre-long robotic arm that forms one part of Canada’s contribution to the ISS.

The CSA and NASA have confirmed that the arm’s performance is “unaffected” by the incident, and the damage is “limited to a small section of the arm boom and thermal blanket”. Canadarm2 will thus continue to perform its operations as planned.

Currently there are over 23,000 foreign objects – colloquially known as ‘space junk’ – the size of a softball or bigger that are constantly tracked in order to detect any possible collisions with satellites or the ISS itself.

NASA has also said that “millimetre-sized orbital debris represents the highest mission-ending risk to most robotic spacecraft operating in low-Earth orbit”, largely due to the fact that small objects cannot be tracked.

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