It is difficult to characterize the hazard posed by meteoroids and debris to the ISS because most of the meteoroids and debris that could harm the space station are small, dark, and fast moving and thus difficult to detect from the Earth. Moreover, the meteoroid and debris environment in the ISS orbit can vary greatly, depending on the state of the solar cycle and the number and severity of recent breakups of orbiting objects. Adequately protecting the ISS from this environment is also challenging because of the uncertainty of the threat and the difficulty of accurately simulating the effects of high-speed meteoroid and debris impacts.

The team building the ISS has developed a strategy to manage the hazard posed by meteoroids and debris to the ISS. To support this strategy, the team has developed models that predict the flux of meteoroids and debris in the ISS orbit. The ISS program uses these models to determine the chances that the station will collide with meteoroids and debris of various sizes. The program plans to reduce the hazard by: (1) shielding elements of the ISS to protect them from impacts with the smallest meteoroids and debris, (2) moving the ISS out of the path of the rare pieces of debris large enough to be tracked by ground-based sensors, and (3) implementing design features and operational procedures to minimize the

FIGURE 1-1 The International Space Station. Source: NASA.

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