The International Space Station (ISS) emits the largest space debris ever created, the 2.9-ton base of 48 nickel-hydrogen panels.
The robotic arm attached to the ISS clears the waste at an altitude of 426 km above the Earth’s surface. As expected, the waste will spend 2-4 years floating in low earth orbit before burning in the atmosphere. However, NASA has no data on how much debris remains in the biosphere, according to media expert Leah Cheshier. The disposal of the battery base was not originally planned. The waste was supposed to be brought back to Earth aboard the Japanese transfer vehicle H-II (HTV). But plans were delayed last year due to the failure of the Soyuz train, affecting the space walking program.
Garbage travels at a speed of 7.7 km / h and it is difficult to survive extreme temperatures by flying over the Earth’s atmosphere. NASA experts say it’s not a threat to humans. According to Cheshier, the battery base is the largest mass object ever thrown from the ISS station, weighing 2.9 tons, double the average of the early ammonia maintenance system as the astronaut. Clay Anderson launched the 2007 STS-118 mission.
NASA began replacing 48 nickel-hydrogen panels with 24 lithium-ion batteries in 2016, with the latest replacement taking place last year. The higher energy density of lithium-ion battery technology reduces the number of panels, requiring fewer shipments, NASA said.
Lithium-ion batteries were selected after research results showed their effectiveness on Earth. This battery is designed to withstand extreme temperatures. The ISS’s lithium-ion panels also use radiation shielding, first developed for a rocket motor, reducing the risk of overheating.
In 2016, NASA began upgrading the ISS station batteries with the HTV freighter. Thirteen different astronauts completed a total of 14 space walks over nearly 5 years to complete the battery replacement. The 2.9 ton mass of waste from the battery base will be one of 34,000 pieces of space waste larger than 10 centimeters in diameter in orbit.