The component known as Canadarm2 is still in operation, although the fact that the space’s garbage is now a major problem and likely to cause catastrophic damage serves as a glossy reminder. A tiny spacecraft has crashed into a robotic arm attached to the International Space Station (ISS). In a blog post, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) – which designed Canadarm2 – announced that the damage first noticed during a regular inspection on May 12.
The wreckage hit on the ISS was too small, it could not track, yet the metal of the arm was traveling fast enough to pierce the outer layer. “Canada 2 continues to conduct planned activities,” the CSA said. “The damage is limited to a small portion of the arm boom and heat blanket.” The arm currently scheduled to complete a number of tasks, including moving a robot called the Dextre into position so that it can replace a faulty power switchbox.
With the introduction of Sputnik 1 in 1957, the amount of fabricated debris in low-Earth orbit has been increasing since the beginning of the space age. Even after more than 60 years, the number of invisible objects in our orbit has greatly exceeded the number of active satellites. According to the CSA, “More than 23,000 objects of softball or larger size have been tracked 24/7 to detect possible collisions with satellites and ISS.”
Yet as these items shrink and fragment, they produce small debris that cannot tracked, creating a significant risk for all future space travel and activities. The European Space Agency says most of these tiny fragments created because of the remaining fuel and battery explosions left on the spacecraft, with about 12.5 million such incidents occurring each year. More objects are currently stuck in our orbit.
Although these fragments may be smaller, the speed at which they traveled enabled them to perforate satellites and other spacecraft, which is why calls for stricter rules to limit the amount of space debris are on the rise. The CSA, meanwhile, says it will continue to work closely with NASA to determine the full extent of the damage caused by Canadarm2.