Canadarm2, the robotic arm of the International Space Station (ISS) is confirmed to have been hit by a tiny piece of space debris. This observation came into light after a routine inspection of the arm by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) on May 12th.
CSA addressed the damage in a blog post saying, “Despite the impact, results of the ongoing analysis indicate that the arm’s performance remains unaffected. The damage is limited to a small section of the arm boom and thermal blanket. A hole approximately 5 mm in diameter is visible. Canadarm2 is continuing to conduct its planned operations”.
Officially called the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), Canadarm2 has been operational in the ISS for over two decades now. Its main functions are to move objects outside the station and to assist in maintenance of the station.
Space junk has become a growing concern today. Space vehicles and equipment that become non-functional or lose contact with the earth constitute this junk. Having nowhere to go, these units revolve around the space, causing a threat to the functional space units.
NASA and its partnering agencies have identified nearly 23,000 objects of the size of a softball or larger and track them 24/7 in order to avoid collisions with satellites and the ISS. But, the amount of debris smaller than the size of a softball, that are not identifiable, are inestimable. These tiny objects being rocks, dust particles or even flecks of paint from other satellites, can be highly destructive due to their high speed.