Astronauts at the International Space Station were forced to hunker down Monday after U.S. Space Command issued an advisory regarding a “debris-generating event” in outer space that might impact satellites circulating above the earth.
Due to the unconfirmed nature of the “debris field,” members aboard the International Space Station were advised to take shelter in their spacecraft in the event that the station was hit, according to CNN. Space Command said the agency is “aware of a debris-generating event” that had occurred in outer space, CNN reported.
The Space Command bulletin also stated that the agency is “working to characterize” the debris and would relay information to “space-faring nations” if satellites needed to be maneuvered in order to avoid the junk.
Breaking: “U.S. Space Command is aware of a debris-generating event in outer space. We are actively working to characterize the debris field and will continue to ensure all space-faring nations have the information necessary to maneuver satellites if impacted.” – US Space Command
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) November 15, 2021
Brian Weeden, the director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation, told the Houston Chronicle that around 18 pieces of orbital debris were detected, adding that the field likely came from a ground-launched missile or a collision between two satellites.
Here is the orbit of ISS (blue) compared to that of the Ikar No. 39L satellite (cover name Kosmos-1408) (magenta) and the part of the orbit where the crew have been warned of possible collisions with a debris field (red). This shows Kosmos-1408 is a plausible candidate pic.twitter.com/oGJtQxWxkV
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) November 15, 2021
“That low amount of debris is more in line with an internal explosion or a collision with a very small piece of debris,” Weeden said.
Officials were concerned that an anti-satellite weapon’s test, reportedly conducted by Russia over the weekend, may have contributed to the creation of the debris field, according to CNN. (RELATED: Russian Film Crew Rockets To Space To Make First Movie In Orbit)
Earlier this year, a 22-ton Chinese rocket fell back to earth in an uncontrolled fashion, initially prompting concerns that debris might hit the U.S.