International Space Station’s robotic arm damaged by space debris

Canada Space Agency, 2021-05-28

Space can be a harsh and unforgiving environment for the robots and humans that explore it: the hazards are many, from massive temperature swings to radiation and orbital debris.

Over 23,000 objects the size of a softball or larger are tracked 24/7 to detect potential collisions with satellites and the International Space Station (ISS). A number of tiny objects—ranging from rock or dust particles to flecks of paint from satellites—are also too small to be monitored.

The threat of collisions is taken very seriously. NASA has a long-standing set of guidelines to ensure the safety of Station crew. The safety of astronauts on board the orbiting laboratory remains the top priority of all Station partners.

While the utmost precautions are taken to reduce the potential for collisions with the ISS, impacts with tiny objects do occur. One such hit was noticed recently during a routine inspection of Canadarm2 on May 12.

Experts from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA worked together to take detailed images of the area and assess the impact, which occurred on one of Canadarm2’s boom segments.

Despite the impact, results of the ongoing analysis indicate that the arm’s performance remains unaffected. The damage is limited to a small section of the arm boom and thermal blanket. A hole approximately 5mm in diameter is visible.

Canadarm2 is continuing to conduct its planned operations, including hoisting Dextre into position to replace a faulty power switchbox (Remote Power Control Module).

NASA and the CSA will continue to gather data to conclude the analysis. Near-term robotics operations will continue as planned

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Space junk damages International Space Station’s robotic arm

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