Tight space: Soyuz spaceship forced to dodge old Japanese booster debris

The Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft © NASA
The Russian Soyuz-TMA-18M spacecraft has had to perform an avoidance maneuver to avoid a fragment of an old Japanese third-stage rocket booster launched in 1989. The escape was performed with NASA’s assistance.

“To prevent collision, ballisticians in our mission control center and their American colleagues teamed up for precise track-defining and ensuring tomorrow’s coupling with the ISS,” Russian space agency Roskosmos said. “The maneuver was conducted at 8:40am (05:40 GMT), and the object was avoided successfully.”

The Soyuz-TMA-18M will fly past the dangerous object at 11:30am (08:00 GMT).

09/02/2015 Soyuz TMA-18M launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome to take the long-duration expedition 45/46 to the International Space Station. © Alexey Filippov

The 500th manned Soyuz rocket successfully lifted off from the Gagarin’s Start Launchpad on September 2, with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Volkov and Kazakh Aidyn Aimbetov, along with the first ever Danish astronaut, Andreas Mogensen, on board.

READ MORE: 500th manned flight: Milestone space mission to blast off from Gagarin's launch pad

The spacecraft is taking a roundabout, two-day route to get to the ISS, with docking planned for Friday September 4, at GMT 7:35am. The docking will mark the conclusion of Expedition 44 and the beginning of Expedition 45.

READ MORE: Historic 500th Soyuz rocket sets off from Baikonur

Cosmonaut Aimbetov and astronaut Mogensen will stay on the ISS for one week, returning to Earth on September 11. For these seven days, nine people will share the space station during the week-long crew rotation.

READ MORE: Milestone launch: New ISS crew lifts off in Baikonur 500th manned flight

The current crew of the ISS consists of three cosmonauts from Russia’s Roscosmos space agency - Commander Gennady Padalka, Mikhail Kornienko and Oleg Kononenko. NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren, and Japanese researcher Kimiya Yui are also on the ISS.