Astronauts Forced to Hide From Flying Debris in International Space Station After Satellite Explodes

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Jun 28, 2024

Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) were forced to hide and take shelter after a Russian satellite broke up in orbit near them, flinging more than 100 pieces of trackable space debris in the area.

This recent event comes as many experts have warned that satellites and space debris will become a massive worry — and a potentially huge danger — as there are so many satellites floating above Earth.

A Russian Satellite Blows Up

Around 9 p.m. EDT, NASA alerted ISS astronauts to take shelter in their respective aircrafts, as a Russian satellite had broken up in an orbit near the ISS.

The International Space Station seen above Earth in space.

Source: NASA/Roscosmos/Wikimedia Commons

NASA asked these astronauts to do so, just in case there was any sort of collision between this space debris and the station.


NASA’s Statement

NASA eventually released a statement about this situation, explaining that this was all a precautionary measure.

A space shuttle seen in orbit above Earth in space.

Source: NASA/Unsplash

NASA posted on X, “Shortly after 9 p.m. EDT, NASA instructed crews aboard the space station to shelter in their respective spacecraft as a standard precautionary measure after it was informed of a satellite break-up at an altitude near the station’s earlier Wednesday.”

More Than 100 Pieces of Satellite in Space

According to NASA, this Russian satellite’s break up resulted in more than 100 different trackable objects floating in space, in an orbit near the ISS.

A satellite seen over the coast of the earth in space.

Source: SpaceX/Unsplash

Because of these many objects near the station, NASA wanted to ensure that their crew was safe and ordered them to take shelter.

Taking Shelter

The astronauts in the ISS took shelter in their own respective aircraft that were docked at the station.

A view of the planet Earth as seen from a space shuttle.

Source: NASA/Unsplash

For example, the much talked about Boeing Starliner crew — astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore — took shelter in the Starliner capsule until the all clear was given.

Why Did the Russian Satellite Break Up?

So far, there are no real details about why this Russian satellite, the RESURS-P1 Russian Earth observation satellite, seemed to explode in space, resulting in more than 100 objects flinging apart.

A view of a satellite seen over planet Earth.

Source: NASA/Unsplash

This specific satellite was decommissioned back in 2022. However, many theories have already been spread online — by simple social media users and experts alike — about what may have happened.


A Simple Malfunction

Many analysts believe that this Russian satellite may have broken apart if it had some sort of an internal malfunction. This would have caused the satellite to explode.

A satellite seen above Earth in orbit.

Source: NASA/Unsplash

Others theorize that the satellite could have been hit by an untracked piece of debris, which would have caused it to fail and then break up completely.


Other Theories

Some experts have worried that this satellite explosion could be the result of a Russian anti-satellite (ASAT) warfare test. This would mean Russia deliberately targeted the satellite and made it explode.

A rocket launch seen in the evening.

Source: SpaceX/Unsplash

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, brought this theory up, as the satellite was passing over the Plesetsk Cosmodrome when it broke up. However, McDowell doesn’t fully believe Russia made this potentially dangerous move.


Taking Shelter for an Hour

ISS astronauts took shelter in their capsules and craft for about one hour before NASA gave them the all-clear that they could leave.

The ISS seen in black space.

Source: NASA/Wikimedia Commons

Now, both NASA and US Space Command have come out to say that they don’t believe there are any immediate threats against the ISS or the astronauts on board.


Keeping Watch on the Area

Space Command released its own statement to assure the public that there are no more threats revolving around this current event.

A view of a lit-up United States as seen from space.

Source: NASA/Unsplash

They said, “USSPACECOM has observed no immediate threats and is continuing to conduct routine conjunction assessments to support the safety and sustainability of the space domain.”


A New Normal?

Experts have warned about this recent satellite explosion for a while now. Many analysts have grown increasingly worried that potentially dangerous incidents like this could happen up in space, as there are many satellites now flying above the planet.

The sky seen near space.

Source: Rahul S/Unsplash

This increases the chance that space debris could end up hitting satellites — or bring about massive problems for astronauts on the ISS.


Space Drama

This ISS incident is also just the latest headline-making news that has come from space, as much of the country has been paying close attention to the two astronauts stuck on the ISS as Boeing attempts to fix their Starliner capsule.

Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams seen on the ISS.

Source: NASA Johnson Space Center/Wikimedia Commons

Astronauts Williams and Wilmore were supposed to return to Earth weeks ago, but various delays have kept them up in space, thanks to problems with their Boeing craft.