On Thursday, the International Space Station (ISS) suddenly changed position in orbit when the thrusters on a newly connected Russian module began to operate out of control. The space lab, the size of a football field, was deflected by the engines by about 45 degrees, according to information from the US space agency NASA. At this point, the situation on the space station is under control, according to a NASA spokesman, and the seven-member crew is safe.
The faulty propulsion unit belongs to a module called Russia’s Nauka, a 23-ton multi-purpose laboratory. It started having problems a few hours after docking with the ISS, at 12:25 am ET (23:25 GMT), according to NASA spokesman Rob Navias. The control agency at NASA’s astronaut center in Houston noticed the space station deviating from its usual position within a few minutes, and automatically sent an alert to the astronauts on the station. By 12:42 ET, the space station had lost control of its position, according to ISS manager Joel Montalbano in a press conference that followed.
The ISS space station with the US sector on the left, and the Russian area on the right. Photo taken on July 8, before Nauka “docked” at the ISS.
The International Space Station (ISS), a scientific wonder consisting of 16 modules for both living and research, began sliding out of orbit at a rate of 1.5 degrees per minute, according to NASA. The thrusters from the other side of the space station, part of Russia’s Zvezda service module, were working to counter the thrust from Nauka, which the liaison at NASA said was “a tug-of-war”.
Correspondent Drew Morgan at mission control Houston told US astronauts aboard the space station: “Just to update you guys, right now we are in a tug-of-war between the propulsion units belonging to both the service module and Nauka. We are choosing the best course of action right now.”
Nearly an hour later, at 13:29 ET, control centers in Houston and Moscow regained control of the space station and struggled to return it to its normal position. “Nauka’s thrusters are no longer working, we have regained control, the parameters are stable.”, Mr. Morgan told the American astronauts, “It can be said that the rest of today’s work will not go as planned.”
According to Mr. Navias, the crew is safe. It was not immediately clear what caused the propulsion to malfunction and spew fire. According to Montalbano, the Russian space agency Roscosmos has launched an investigation into the cause. The fact that the ISS space station deviates from its course due to a faulty jet engine “Definitely not a common occurrence”, added Montalbano, estimating that such an event has only occurred three to four times in the ISS’s 20-year history. The remaining partners on the space station such as the Japanese Space Agency JAEA and the European Space Agency ESA were also involved in monitoring the status of the space station during the incident.
Nauka . Multi-Purpose Module
The incident forced NASA to postpone the launch of Boeing’s Starliner unmanned capsule to the ISS, originally scheduled for 14:53 ET on Friday. According to the agency’s statement, the launch will be rescheduled to Tuesday, August 3, at 13:20 ET.
The Nauka module, whose name means “science” in Russian, was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan last Wednesday. Although launched only last weekend, the module has a long history: its development began in 1995, with an initial launch scheduled for 2007. Launch delays and some changes design and purpose have led this module so far to be put into orbit.
Nauka encountered many problems almost immediately after entering space. The space module deployed its solar panels just 13 minutes after launch without issue, but communication and propulsion problems prevented it from entering its intended orbit. Engineers and control centers in Moscow immediately found a way to correct the problem, by turning on the module’s second thruster assembly to prevent Nauka from falling out of orbit and burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. . Nauka then resumed a predetermined orbit and automatically connected to the space station after an 8-day journey.