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Now Space Station forced to DODGE flying Japanese junk

First Indian, Russian debris - next Tokyo's gear is in the way

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The International Space Station is due to swerve tomorrow morning to avoid a debris cloud from a Japanese satellite, the Russian Flight Control Centre said.

A Russian Zvezda service module will fire booster rockets to shift the station out of the path of the space junk if the agency is certain it's necessary.

The dodge is provisionally planned for 10.22am BST (9.22 GMT, 00.01 PST), a source in the centre told Russian news agency RIA Novosti, but it could be cancelled or postponed.

The ISS only swerves out of the way if the chance of collision is more than one in 10,000, but experts are starting to worry that could happen more often with the amount of space junk in orbit round the Earth.

NASA estimates that there are more than 21,000 fragments bigger than 10cm (3.9 inches) circling around our planet, posing problems for further space launches and re-entries. The US space agency has started tests on its extraterrestrial rubbish-collector, the NanoSail-D, a teeny satellite which will latch onto debris and then float it in on a solar sail to burn up in the atmosphere. ®

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