The International Space Station has detached its large 2.9-ton pallet of 48 nickel-hydrogen batteries, which is now headed towards Earth. The array of discarded batteries was attached to a robotic arm that released it 265 miles above Earth’s surface and will spend around two to four years in the lower planet orbit (with other space junk) before burning up harmlessly in the atmosphere.
The detachment came right after NASA completed its upgradation of the ISS batteries, replacing the dated 48 nickel-hydrogen batteries with 24 lithium-ion units — a process that commenced in 2016 but took nearly four years to complete, with the final swap occurring in 2020. This is the largest object, mass-wise, to ever be sent from ISS, almost twice the mass of Early Ammonia Serving tank jettisoned by spacewalker Clay Anderson during the STS-118 mission in 2007. The pallet is moving 4.8 miles per second and is believed to survive the intense heat after it enters Earth’s atmosphere. This set of added 2.9 ton of garbage is in addition to almost 34,000 pieces of space junk along with millions of smaller objects already floating around Earth. NASA’s ballistic officers ‘indicate no threat.’