NASA officials say a piece of orbiting "space junk," passing near the
International Space Station Friday, is a safe distance away from the
station, and the docked shuttle Discovery.
NASA says the orbiting "junk" is part of the body of an European rocket and is 19 square meters in size.
space agency expected the old rocket to pass within three kilometers of
the station. Engineers considered the distance to be safe and
proceeded with a planned spacewalk on Thursday.
During the walk, two shuttle astronauts successfully installed a massive new ammonia tank outside the station.
Mission control managers said Friday the new tank is working perfectly.
Shuttle astronauts have a third and final spacewalk scheduled for Saturday.
The ammonia tank is needed for the station's cooling system and replaces an older, smaller tank.
800 kilograms, the new tank is the largest item spacewalking astronauts
have handled during assembly of the space station. Objects are
weightless in zero gravity conditions in space, but they still have
mass and can be difficult to move.
The space shuttle arrived at
the station Sunday, carrying equipment that included an exercise
treadmill named for U.S. television comedian Stephen Colbert.
When Discovery undocks from the outpost, astronaut
Nicole Stott will remain aboard the space station as flight engineer
for the next three months. She is replacing astronaut Timothy Kopra,
who will join the rest of the shuttle's crew for the flight back to
The shuttle is expected to return to Earth September 10 with the space station's old ammonia tank in its cargo hold.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.