Serious malfunction: Russian research module turns ISS after docking maneuver

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The Russian ISS module Nauka docked with the ISS. But then it suddenly fired its thrusters and turned the station. The crew is fine.

There has been a serious malfunction during the docking of the Russian research module Nauka to the International Space Station (ISS): While Russian cosmonauts were busy with routine work after the docking procedure, the module unexpectedly and independently fired its thrusters, spinning the space station. The flight attitude of the ISS was thereby changed by a full 45 degrees, the U.S. space agency NASA announced. Partially automatically triggered maneuvers of the ISS thrusters would have but quickly steered against it, a while the pressed against each other. Finally, however, the position of the station was corrected again. NASA still assures that there was no danger for the crew at any time. Further information is to follow.

Always problems with Nauka

The Nauka research module was originally supposed to fly to the ISS as early as 2007; it is the sister module of the first ISS segment ever – Sarja. Construction of the module had even begun in 1995. However, the launch had been delayed again and again, and there had been criticism for some time that Nauka’s technology was long outdated. It was finally launched on July 21, but even after that, not everything went smoothly: A first planned maneuver had to be postponed, and docking with the ISS was delayed further and further. Even then, a problem with the thrusters was responsible. The Russian module Pirs made room for Nauka, it was undocked and burned up in the atmosphere as planned.

What exactly went wrong during the docking maneuver is still unclear. It seems that after docking, Nauka’s systems assumed that the maneuver had not been completed and therefore activated the engines again. Only those responsible in the Russian control center can completely deactivate them, NASA’s transmission said, and this is currently being worked on. In Houston, meanwhile, there was suspicion that something flew off the station during the unexpected maneuver. The crew on board was asked to look out the windows and possibly take photos, NASA Spaceflight reports. While experts express doubt that it can already be ruled out that there was any danger to the crew, initial indications are that Boeing’s Starliner flight to the ISS, scheduled for Friday, will be postponed after the events.

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