The ISS just dumped 2.9 tons of old batteries – the atmosphere is expected to burn off the cargo in a few years
During this week NASA sent a peculiar order to the astronauts of the International Space Station: unleash a load of space junk, the largest ever dropped. Almost three tons of old batteries fell off and will orbit the Earth for several years before finally burning up in the atmosphere.
It is the largest object that has been dumped from the International Space Station, according to NASA. The pallet with the load has detached after the batteries of the International Space Station were replaced during this last year. A freighter commanded by the Japan Space Agency arrived in May 2020 with six new lithium-ion batteries that have replaced the old ones.
The Japanese supply ship has delivered from 2017 to 2020 a total of four cargoes totaling 24 energy storage units. Previously the International Space Station has been powered by 48 nickel-hydrogen batteries.
The replacement process of the batteries has been produced outside the International Space Station. When the HTV freighter arrived, the robotic arm captured it and the astronauts went out to collect batteries and anchor the old ones. Later, the freighter returned to Earth and melted into the atmosphere, shedding the remains over the Pacific Ocean.
The last load however has run out of HTV freighter, the gravitational attraction will gradually move the pallet until it enters the atmosphere. NASA waits That happens in two or four years. Charged with nickel-hydrogen batteries, the pallet weighs around 2.9 tons.
Space junk vs. space exploration
Space junk is one of the problems that generates the most noise in space exploration. Many satellites end up abandoned and orbiting the Earth’s atmosphere until they are burned by it. However, while still up there they can collide with other ships or satellites, as well as make astronomical observation difficult.
Throughout the last few years several initiatives have emerged for capture space junk, Finish with her The extend the life of satellites so they don’t end up discarded so soon. Of course, the huge number of satellites that even in their useful life can be annoying is also worrying, like those of starlink.