Keeping Orbital Operations Safe

The Air Force’s Phased Array Warning System radars, known as Pave PAWS, earlier this month played an important role in preventing the evacuation of the International Space Station. Data from their monitoring of a roughly six-inch chunk of debris on a near-collision course with the station allowed the station’s three-member crew to remain on board and not have to leave out of safety concerns using Russia’s Soyuz capsule. With the help of Pave PAWS tracking data, the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., determined that the debris piece would harmlessly pass by ISS on April 5, much to the crew’s relief. The Pave PAWS radars are located at Beale AFB, Calif., and Cape Cod AFS, Mass. The piece of debris causing this scare resulted from China’s irresponsible shootdown of a Chinese weather satellite in January 2007. (Cape Cod report via Diana Barth)