Cubesats are (ir-)regularly deployed at very low velocity from the ISS, and they don't usually have propulsion. This tells me that the delta-v is enough to guarantee to those in charge that their orbits won't intersect the ISS again.

A tool bag "got away" - I saw this in a text book.

I remember an ISS astronaut deploying something intentionally by hand - I think it was a nano-satellite of some kind, maybe a self-deorbit experiment?

But these are just from memory.

What kinds of things have been tossed out of - or otherwise intentionally deployed from - the ISS?

edit: I don't want a list of everything - well yes I do, but I'm not asking here for a list of everything. I'm guessing there may be 3 to 6 different classes of things. Cubesats would be one classs. Space suits would be one class, waste would be one (hypothetical) class, for example.

edit: I found this YouTube linked in this discussion of some examples: Why A Ball Thrown To Earth From Orbit "Boomerangs". Can Astronauts Hit Earth With A Ball, Arrow Or Bullet? (By inventor & programmer (and debunker) Robert Walker, October 24th 2015)

uhoh! My video link is broken, at least temporarily. It's also (of course) broken in the link above. I will ask a question shortly about this because the caption there is intriguing;

Here is a steel ball thrown out of the ISS to help test how well ground stations can track orbital debris

Video link https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=24&v=z5HcXnjtICE no longer works, so instead I've asked What radar-trackable steel ball was thrown from the ISS before October 2015?


3 Answers 3


An Orlan spacesuit! aka SuitSat 1.

enter image description here

The tool bag was lost by Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper during the STS-126 mission, who was a fine astronaut and deserves to be remembered for more than this incident.


Although I am sure the embroiderers of mission patches do not miss her:

enter image description here

An USB flashdrive


enter image description here (credits NASA TV)

The ISS was very young then, but Jerry Ross lost a trunnion thermal cover during STS-88. Photos of this caused some UFO nonsense but the linked article debunks it.

enter image description here

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ OK, so in object oriented programming, we'd say there is a "space suit class" and an "inadvertent" class, and a "cubesat" class of course. Are there other classes of objects? I like that patch very much! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 5:32
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Where to put the USB - "manual download class?" $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 8:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Christer Fuglesang also dropped a toolbox. Maybe design or procedures could be improved. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 9:42
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Someone needs to add a "ReturnToISS()" method to the Object base class to avoid these incidents in the future $\endgroup$
    – Cody
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 17:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I just happened to come across this link for RadioSkaf 1 (Suitsat) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 10:20

To add to the list, don't forget the large Ammonia Tank that Clay Anderson jettisoned in his EVA (23 Jul 2007):

The Living Moon Image

Source: The Living Moon

Further jettison 27th January; Glover has just tossed the Columbus Ka Band Antenna Cover over the side:

enter image description here

On 2nd June a Russian Spacewalk jettisoned the "Zarya Fluid Flow Regulator in an airtight container":

Capture from NASA TV


According to Space.com's 02-Feb-2018 article Cosmonauts Break Russian Spacewalk Record During Space Station Antenna Repair:

The cosmonauts spent the day replacing an electronics box for a high-gain communications antenna outside the Zvezda service module. Instead of holding on to the outdated piece of equipment, the cosmonauts tossed the original electronics box overboard, dooming it to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

caption: An old electronics box drifts through space after Russian cosmonauts tossed it away from the International Space Station during a spacewalk on Feb. 2, 2018. Credit: NASA TV


enter image description here

edit: According to Scott Manley's video this is 1998-067NM 43203 ISS DEB

  • $\begingroup$ A better video of that event. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ @SF. excellent! I can't figure out the orientation there, does the video address Was this large pieces of “space junk” just released from the ISS in the “nadir and retrograde” direction? If so, it would be great if you'd consider adding an answer, now that you have visual documentation/verification. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @SF. Thanks for posting there. With the benefit of sleep and coffee and 2nd look, I'm now wondering if this is really it or not. It looks like the spacewalk in question was in February 2018, and while Scott Manley suggests the box was "the size of a refrigerator", Space.com says "The box weighs 60 lbs. (27 kilograms) and is about the size of a carry-on suitcase." This video is from 2015 and the object looks substantially smaller/lighter. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 1:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ yes, I recall a separate event... the object was thrown by two cosmonauts together. Can't find it though. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 11:23

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