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Shattered Russian satellite forces ISS astronauts to take shelter in stricken Starliner capsule

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Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have been forced to take shelter inside the docked Starliner spacecraft after a defunct Russian satellite broke apart in orbit, sending potentially dangerous debris racing around Earth.

The ISS's nine crew members — including the Boeing Starliner's stranded Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams — took cover for about an hour last night (June 27) shortly after 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT).

The astronauts took the precautionary measure following the breakup of the Resurs-P1 Russian Earth observation satellite, which shattered into more than 100 pieces near the space station on Wednesday (June 26).

"Mission Control continued to monitor the path of the debris, and after about an hour, the crew was cleared to exit their spacecraft and the station resumed normal operations," NASA said on the social platform X.

Obit-monitoring company LeoLabs first noticed the Resurs-P1 satellite, declared dead since 2022, breaking apart when it spotted a "debris-generating event in Low Earth Orbit" on June 26, according to a post on X. The U.S. Space CoMMAnd said there were "no immediate threats" to other satellites. The exact cause of the satellite's breakup remains unknown.

Related: Mysterious object that crashed through Florida home was likely space junk from the International Space Station

Space junk in orbit above Earth is a growing problem for astronauts and satellites. Space agencies around the world try to keep tabs on the more than 30,000 of the largest pieces of junk, but many more pieces of debris are too small to monitor.

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