The International Space Station (Credits: NASA).

The International Space Station orbit was raised one kilometer by Russia’s Mission Control Centre to avoid a possible collision with a fragment of the U.S. communications satellite Iridium-33, which collided with the derelict Cosmos 2251 on February 10, 2009 over Siberia.  The raising is the 15th unscheduled maneuver to avoid space debris.

The collision between Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 stunned the aerospace community. After the initial astonishment from the collision, finger-pointing between the operators of the satellites in the United States and the Russian Federation began.  However, the incident helped to foster cooperation among the space-faring nations in addressing the issue of space debris and resulted in the United States and the Russian Federation opening a dialogue to discuss the issue and take measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.  This eventually led to an agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States via U.S. STRATCOM’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC).  Under this agreement JSpOC shares orbital element data it obtains with the Russian Federation as well as other governmental and non-governmental organizations.

This latest space debris avoidance maneuver highlights the ever-increasing issue of space debris in low-earth orbit and its hazard to both manned and unmanned space activities.



About the author

Michael J. Listner


Michael is an attorney and the founder/principal of Space Law and Policy Solutions, which is a firm that counsels governmental and private organizations on matters relating to space law and policy, including issues surrounding space debris. Michael serves as the Vice-President of Legal Affairs for the International Space Safety Foundation and on January 1, 2013 assumed the role of President and CEO (Interim) for the ISSF. Michael formally served as Space Safety Magazine's Legal and Policy Editor and its General Counsel. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Computer Information Systems from Franklin Pierce University and obtained his Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from Regent University School of Law, and he is a member of the New Hampshire Bar. Michael can be contacted at Follow Michael on Twitter @ponder68.

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