A piece of space trash crashed into the Robotic Arm on the International Space Station, although near-term activities should be unaffected, says an agency. CSA officials said in a blog post-Friday that during a regular check on May 12, robotic operators spotted a hole in the station’s Canadarm2 donated by the Canadian Space Agency, which has been in orbit since 2001.
Given the small size of the Robotic Arm, which is 57.7 feet (17.6 meters) long and has a diameter of just 14 inches, officials labeled the hole a “lucky strike” (35 cm). The extent of the gap and whether the debris went all the way through are not visible in the photos. Following thorough analysis by CSA and NASA, it appears that Canadarm2’s role in keeping the space station in good repair may continue without interruption.
The CSA said in a blogpost, “Results of the ongoing analysis indicate that the arm’s performance remains unaffected. The damage is limited to a small section of the Robotic Arm boom and thermal blanket.” Canadarm2 was expected to send a Canadian robotic hand, Dextre, into a location to repair a defective power switch box known as the Remote Power Control module soon. However, CSA stated that operation should be unaffected.
Canadarm2 and Dextre are usually run from the CSA headquarters in Montreal, Quebec. Due to the increasing number of CubeSat launches arriving in fleets for broadband access and other uses, orbital debris is becoming a severe hazard in low Earth orbit. Some of these orbits cross with the space station, which runs at a 52-degree inclination at around 200 miles (450 kilometers) altitude, but natural space dust and other objects also pose a threat.