The arms test, carried out by Russia’s Ministry of Defense, came at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Russia, as US officials warned allies that Moscow was building a military presence on its border with Ukraine. And the space threat posed by the rocket test also came as NASA negotiated with Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, to handle astronaut flights to the International Space Station on American cars for seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Officials from both countries consider such arrangements the key to maintaining operations on the space station.
“There are about 1,700 new objects, larger objects that are being tracked,” Dana Weigel, NASA’s space station deputy director, said on Monday during a news conference that predicted the planned spacewalk. “It will take a few months to get all of those cataloged and in our normal pound tracking process, where we can then assess missing distances and how close these items are to the ISS.”
Ms. Weigel said the Russian weapons test doubled the size of the background waste environment for the space station. She said the new wreckage increased the risk for astronauts by about 7 percent. But she said that “falls within the family” of similar risk calculations for past spacewalks.
The Russian missile test, which took off from the Plesetsk launch site about 650 kilometers north of Moscow, angered US officials and drew condemnation from other countries, including Australia, Canada and Britain.
Bill Nelson, NASA’s administrator, said shortly after the test that it was “unfortunate that the Russians would do this.”
The spacewalk delay came a day before the White House will convene the first meeting of the National Space Council in the Biden administration. In a letter sent to the council on Monday, Senate Senators for Commerce Committee urged Vice President Kamala Harris, the council’s chairman, to act on Russia’s anti-satellite test and “worked for international dialogue” to develop standards of responsible behavior in space. “
There have been a dozen spacewalks this year, many of which have new components and solar panels added to the exterior of the space station. NASA aims to keep the 21-year-old orbital laboratory running until 2030, pending congressional approval. But the station has already shown signs of its age, such as cracks and air leaks that were discovered on a key module in 2019.