A mystery space debris nearly upstaged the ISS’s arrival

Written by By Jack Parks, CNN

Soyuz and the International Space Station are visible on the horizon. Russia’s Yerevan space facility in Armenia looks like a dust pummeling in the distance. In the background is the distant mountains of Georgia.

It’s seen at 10:42 EST and CNN has obtained a video showing the dramatic tail end of a space shot from over Russia and Kazakhstan earlier today.

Russian state television channels RIA Novosti and NTV showed footage of the launch sequence. The rocket being launched begins its ascent, reaching an altitude of approximately three kilometers, before suddenly disappearing from view. In it’s final seconds, space debris is seen bobbing to and fro across the sky.

An old, 12-meter piece of rocket weighing more than 40 metric tons was flung skyward by the rocket, which was likely to be carrying the mammoth International Space Station.

CNN’s JFK Johnson reports on the launch, details of the alleged anti-satellite weapon test, which almost upstaged the ISS’s arrival.

According to a Russian space analyst, the fragments could pose a serious threat to the ISS, which orbits at about 200 kilometers above the Earth.

“It is an extremely dangerous space weapon,” said ex-Russian space official Viktor Mazhayenko, explaining that the pieces could either disintegrate into a number of smaller pieces or be buoyed into orbit.

“They destroyed a Russian rocket, an anti-satellite space weapon, which is a considerable threat to the ISS, a military asset,” said Mazhayenko in a video from the Russian Space Agency.

“It is possible the missile may have successfully diverted it to a more dangerous altitude — nine or 10 million kilometers,” he said.

“Of course it is a grave provocation. It is a very serious violation of international law. It is dangerous for the entire navigation system of the world.”

The last time the ISS went missing for several days was in December 2013, after the crew lost contact with the station.

The ESA has publicly criticized the claim that such an event took place.

“At no time was the Station in any danger, nor did the Crew experience any incident that could harm their well-being during the one-hour countdown to re-entry and landing,” it wrote in a statement.

“Further an excessive claim about debris ejected during the booster burns of Soyuz and Progress rockets are totally unfounded.”

It also highlighted that a recent Russia Air Force assessment confirmed a satellite launch into orbit did occur, but “only because of a lightning strike that placed the launch pad in the line of impact and subsequently a rocket malfunction.”

It is hardly a coincidence that this incident took place while the ISS was en route to the ISS, with the incident coming just days after the tragic loss of a Progress cargo ship and Soyuz capsule that was heading to the space station.

It is the first time in more than 30 years that Russia has lost a Soyuz mission and its crew.

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