vendredi 30 juillet 2021

Russian module mishap destabilises International Space Station


ROSCOSMOS - Nauka (Science) Module patch.

July 30, 2021

The International Space Station (ISS) was destabilised after engines of a newly arrived Russian module inadvertently fired up.

"Mission control teams corrected the action and all systems are operating normally," US space agency Nasa said. This was done by activating thrusters on other modules of the ISS. An investigation is now under way. US and Russian officials stressed that the seven crew members aboard the space station were never in any danger.

Nauka (centre) joined the ISS high above the border between Mongolia and China

The malfunction happened three hours after the Nauka module docked with the ISS on Thursday, following an eight-day flight from Earth. Nasa officials said Nauka's jets started firing uncommanded at 12:34 EDT (16:45 GMT) "moving the station 45 degrees out of attitude". The Russian Zvezda segment and a Progress freighter then responded to push the station back into its correct pointing configuration. The incident was over by 13:29 EDT.

"What we saw today was just an awesome job by the mission control flight teams," said Joel Montalbano, Nasa's ISS programme manager. "Those guys were rock stars again and got us back in attitude control. That also shows you what a robust vehicle we have, and our ability to take these contingencies, recover from them and move on," he told reporters.

The unplanned firing of Nauka's thrusters

Communications with the ISS crew were lost for two periods, of four minutes and seven minutes, during the incident. However, the US agency said that the astronauts were safe. They "really didn't feel any movement", it added. The mishap forced Nasa and Boeing to push back Friday's uncrewed test flight of Boeing's Starliner capsule, a vehicle intended to carry astronauts in the future.

"We wanted to give the ISS programme time to assess what had happened today, to determine the cause and make sure that they were really ready to support the Starliner launch," explained Steve Stich, the manager of Nasa's commercial crew programme. "Right now the earliest opportunity would be Tuesday, 3 August, which would be a 13:20 EDT (17:20 GMT) launch.

Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) or "Nauka" (Science) module docked to ISS

The 13m-long, 20-tonne Nauka was earlier attached to the rear of the orbiting platform, linking up with the other major Russian segments on the station. The module should have launched in 2007, but the vessel suffered repeated slips in schedule, in part because of budget difficulties but also because engineers encountered a raft of technical problems during development.

Even after it launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan a week ago, it experienced propulsion issues that required workarounds from controllers in Moscow. In the end, however, it docked with the station on the planned date. The new module will result in a significant boost in habitable volume for the ISS, raising it by 70 cubic metres.

The delay for Nauka has also affected the European robotic arm

Cosmonauts will use the extra space to conduct experiments and to store cargo. They'll also use it as a rest area, and it has another toilet for crew to use on the station. In addition, the module carries with it a large robotic arm (ERA) supplied by the European Space Agency (ESA). This 11m-long device will be able to operate all around the Russian end of the ISS. With the aid of an "elbow" joint, it will shift position by moving hand over hand. Nauka's installation comes just as Russia has been questioning its future role in the ISS project.

Moscow officials recently warned about the more-than-20-year age of some of their on-orbit hardware and intimated the country could pull out of the station in 2025. And Russia has shown little interest in joining the US-led lunar platform, known as the Gateway, which will be assembled later this decade.

The hatches between the module "Science" and the ISS are open

On Thursday, July 29, 2021, at 16:29:06 Moscow time, the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module, launched on July 21, 2021 from the Baikonur cosmodrome, was docked to the International Space Station. Today at 20:47 Moscow time, Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov opened the transfer hatches and boarded the new Russian module "Science".

Nauka hatch opening

After the completion of the docking operations of the multipurpose laboratory module with the nadir docking port of the Zvezda service module of the ISS Russian segment, specialists from the Moscow Region TsNIIMash Mission Control Center (part of the State Corporation Roscosmos), together with the crew of the ISS Russian segment, conducted a tightness control of the docking connections and analyzed telemetry information on the state of the module on-board systems. Then the Russian members of the ISS-65 Expedition Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov opened the hatch of the transition compartment of the Zvezda module and a few minutes later entered the living area of ​​the instrument-hermetic compartment of the laboratory module. In accordance with today's work plan, on board the multipurpose laboratory module, Roskosmos cosmonauts will perform a control examination of the compartments, take air samples and install an atmosphere purification filter unit.

Internal Layout of "Nauka" (Science) Module (Click on the image for enlarge)

Nauka is a multipurpose laboratory module for the Russian segment of the International Space Station. It was created by a cooperation of enterprises with the leading role of the Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (Korolev, part of Roscosmos), as a module developer in order to implement a program of scientific experiments and expand the functionality of the Russian segment of the ISS. The module structure was manufactured by the State Space Research and Production Center named after M.V. Khrunicheva (Moscow, part of Roscosmos).

The multipurpose laboratory module "Science" is intended for the implementation of the Russian program of scientific and applied research and experiments. After its commissioning, the Russian segment of the station will receive additional volumes for the arrangement of workplaces and storage of goods, placement of equipment for the regeneration of water and oxygen. It consists of an instrument-hermetic compartment and a spherical pressurized adapter, separated by a sealed bulkhead with a hatch. It is also equipped with an airlock for carrying out scientific equipment outside the station and a European remote manipulator ERA (European Robotic Arm).

Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) or "Nauka" (Science) module

In the new Russian module, it is planned to conduct 13 experiments in various directions, including Kaplya-2 (space technologies), Aseptic (space biology and physiology), Mirage, Vampire, Fullerene (space materials science ), "Vitacyc-T" (space biology and physiology), "Rakurs" (exploration of the Earth from space) and others. Flight tests of the "Science" module will be completed in about a year.

Related article:

Space Station Stable After Earlier Unplanned MLM Thruster Firing & Update OFT-2

Related links:


ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Expedition 65:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images,  Animation, Videos, Text, Credits: BBC News/NASA/ESA/NASA TV/SciNews/ROSCOSMOS/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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