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NASA has confirmed that an inoperable Russian satellite broke into roughly 200 pieces of debris, forcing astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) to take shelter for about an hour.

The incident involved the RESURS-P1 Russian Earth observation satellite, which shattered on Wednesday. NASA instructed the six American crew members on the ISS to “shelter in their respective spacecraft as a standard precautionary measure.” NASA added that “Mission Control continued to monitor the path of the debris, and after about an hour, the crew was cleared to exit their spacecraft, and the station resumed normal operations.”

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During the incident, NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams took shelter in the Boeing-built Starliner spacecraft, while three other US astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut boarded SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule. The remaining US astronaut joined two Russian cosmonauts in their Soyuz capsule.

US Space Command initially tracked “over 100 pieces of trackable debris” from the satellite, which Russia declared dead in 2022. They reported no immediate threats from the debris. By Thursday afternoon, US space-tracking firm LeoLabs detected at least 180 pieces, estimating that the debris cloud would pose a hazard for weeks to months due to its low orbit. The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, had decommissioned RESURS-P1 in 2021 due to equipment failures but did not comment on the recent breakup.

The breakup of RESURS-P1 was not immediately known as there were no airspace or maritime alerts suggesting such activity. Some have speculated that an internal problem, such as leftover fuel igniting might have caused the breakup.


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