Sat, 25 Sep 2021

New Russian Module Knocks Space Station Out of Position

Voice of America
30 Jul 2021, 16:05 GMT+10

A long-delayed Russian laboratory module docked with the International Space Station on Thursday, but hours later the Russian lab knocked the orbiting station out of position when the lab's thrusters accidentally fired.

It took mission controllers nearly an hour to reposition the ISS, which had been bumped 45 degrees out of alignment. Ground controllers fired Russian thrusters on other Russian elements at the station to fix the positioning.

During the repositioning, communications between the ground and the crew went out twice for several minutes.

It was "a pretty exciting hour," according to Kathy Lueders, NASA's human spaceflight chief.

"We haven't noticed any damage," space station program manager Joel Montalbano said. "There was no immediate danger at any time to the crew."

The complication forced NASA to delay a Boeing test flight to the ISS that had been scheduled to take off from Florida Friday.

The Russian unmanned, 20-ton, nearly 13-meter-long Nauka module - also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module - docked with the ISS following a long and, at times, uncertain journey.

The European Space Agency says shortly after its July 21 launch from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the module deployed its solar panels and antennas as scheduled. But soon after, Russia's mission control center in Moscow said the craft did not receive proper automated data commands and failed to complete an initial burn to raise its orbit.

The ESA says flight engineers spent the week running critical propulsion tests and carrying out orbital corrections on the module, which is designed to rendezvous and dock automatically with the ISS using its own engines.

The ESA monitored the module launch as it carried with it a robotic arm developed by the agency.

The troubled trip to the orbiting space station follows years of problems getting the module off the ground at all. The Nauka - designed to provide more room for scientific experiments and space for the crew - was initially scheduled to go up in 2007 but was repeatedly delayed because of technical problems. Contamination had been found in its fuel system, resulting in a long and costly replacement, and other systems underwent modernization or repairs.

The Nauka is now the first new module in the Russian segment of the station since 2010. Russian crewmembers on the station had done two spacewalks to connect cables in preparation for the new arrival. On Monday, one of the older Russian modules, the Pirs spacewalking compartment, undocked from the space station to free up room for the new module.

The new module will require many operations, including up to 11 spacewalks beginning in September, to prepare it for operation.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press and Reuters news agencies.

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