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ISS space junk: Germany on alert for debris, risk minimal

March 8, 2024

The waste, which reportedly weighs as much as an SUV, is expected to enter the Earth's atmosphere on Friday. German authorities say the "object is being closely monitored" but it's likely not a threat.

A photo of the International Space Station
The International Space Station was launched in 1998 Image: Nasa/dpa/picture alliance

Germany is on the lookout for debris coming off the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday after reports that some of it could land in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinateor other parts of the country. 

What do we know about the space junk? 

The debris belongs to a battery pack which was detached from the ISS three years ago. The space junk weighs 2.6 tons (2600 kilograms), or the size of an SUV.

The space junk might enter the atmosphere above North America, according to the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The debris is expected to burn up as it approaches the Earth's surface. 

A text message to German app users about debris falling into the atmosphere
German authorities say they are prepared if indeed some of the debris lands on German soil Image: Jan Eifert/picture alliance

There's a high probability that it will plunge into the ocean. The DLR said the debris poses a "unlikely" risk to Germany.   

The German Economic Affairs and Climate Ministry (BMWK) said the "object is being closely monitored" and that crisis measures are in place in case the debris lands in Germany. 

The German Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance earlier sent out text messages on warning apps on Thursday, saying there is a low risk of debris landing in Germany. It told users, however, that they would receive new info on the app should the situation change.  

Collecting debris in outer space

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wd/lo (dpa)