China’s Tiangong orbital station collided with a space debris

Crew members of the Chinese Tiangong Space Station have successfully completed repair work after space debris damaged the orbital outpost and caused a partial power outage at the facility. The consequences of the incident were announced at a press conference on Wednesday by representatives of the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA). 

China’s Tiangong Space Station. Photo:

The impact of space debris damaged the power cables connected to the solar panels of the main module. To repair them, the Taikonauts were forced to go into outer space, so their return to Earth was delayed. Now the crew should return to Earth on April 30 after transferring control of the station to the new Shenzhou-18 crew.

CMSA is currently working on optimizing procedures for preventing and avoiding collisions in space. As part of further safety measures, astronauts use a robotic arm with a built-in high-resolution camera to inspect the external condition of the station to check for any impacts and analyze the mechanism of collision with small debris.

The Chinese space station orbits at an altitude of about 450 km above the Earth – 50 km above the International Space Station. This means that both objects are in low Earth orbit, where the most dangerous space debris exists. 

Space debris consists of decommissioned satellites, spent rocket parts and a huge number of tiny fragments formed as a result of accidental collisions of these objects. They move around the Earth at great speed, and therefore any collision with any space station can cause serious damage to it.

Operators of both space stations have systems for monitoring large debris fragments. In case of danger, the orbital outpost temporarily lowers or raises its orbit to avoid a collision.

During a dramatic incident in 2021, crew members aboard the ISS were ordered to take shelter in their spacecraft when a cloud of dangerous space debris created by a Russian anti-missile test that destroyed an old satellite came dangerously close to the station. Fortunately, the ISS managed to avoid damage and the crew was able to return to their duties.

Earlier, we reported on how a garbage cannon was fired at the ISS.

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