The crew fired the Zvezda service module thrusters at 11:10 a.m. EST to avoid a 4-inch piece of a former communications satellite orbiting at very high speed in the space station's general direction that had "the potential of a collision," the space agency said.
The engine-burn moved the station slightly to take it out of range of the piece of broken satellite that was due to pass between 0.6 and 15 miles of the station, SPACE.com reported.
Contact with the object, once used for voice and data communication from hand-held satellite phones, could have punctured the six-story high, 24-story-long and 36-story wide station, officials said.
The orbital modification marked the 13th time since 1998 the low-Earth-orbit station has had to take evasive action to avoid debris, NASA said.
The maneuver eliminated the need to boost the station's altitude next week for the launch and docking this month of a Russian unmanned Progress resupply cargo ship, NASA said.