Russia rocket mishap briefly nudges International Space Station out of position

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The Guardian 29 July, 2021 - 08:52pm 57 views

Thruster Misfire? Russia’s New ISS Module Just Turned the Station Out of Position

The Verge 29 July, 2021 - 05:47pm

Hours after successfully docking with the International Space Station, Russia's new Nauka module, a research lab, airlock, and storage unit, reportedly began firing its thrusters uncontrolled, turning the ISS 45° out of attitude, according to a live broadcast of developing events on NASA TV.

While the crew of the illustrious low-Earth orbit space station is in no danger, control centers at NASA, the ESA, and Russian Flight Directors are taking this very seriously.

"Zvezda's hatch was opened and crew was in process of getting things up and running when at 12:45 PM EDT, Nauka began firing uncontrolled," read a tweet from NASASpaceFlight journalist Chris Gebhardt. "ISS 45 degrees out of attitude. NO DANGER TO CREW!" This came on the heels of the Nauka module's successful docking with the ISS, after a journey from Earth fraught with errors. After it was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrone in Kazakhstan on July 21, the module experienced a failure to complete a main thruster burn to lift it to a higher orbit, but this was corrected with backup thrusters. The Russian module also experienced issues with its antenna. There were problems with the module's docking target, which may or may not have had anything to do with the snag experienced earlier on Thursday.

However, after the Nauka module caused the ISS to lose its correct orientation, service module thrusters and later progress thrusters were fired to correct the attitude of the station. As of writing, it appears to be in a favorable condition, with no casualties, and Russian teams continued to analyze the Nauka thruster issue. "Progress thrusters were used to regain ISS nominal attitude," read another tweet from the NASASpaceFlight journalist. "Russia teams will [continue] working on Nauka thruster issue." NASA's live broadcast said there will be a follow-up telecon later to discuss the incident, to be announced on Nasa.gov and social media.

Progress thrusters were used to regain ISS nominal attitude. Station is in a good configuration now. Russia teams will working Nauka thruster issue. 2/x

When the accidental thruster fire began, Russia's Zvezda service module tried to correct the attitude loss, but this maneuver switched to the main Progress thrusters. The ISS will need to move back in range of Russian ground controllers through its orbital trajectory to correct the issue, so the Nauka module's thrusters do not fire uncommanded again, according to another tweet. In addition to NASA and ESA control centers, Japan's space agency (JAXA) also monitored the precarious situation in real time. Mission Control Houston initially thought they'd monitored debris or ice flinging off of the ISS into space, but the crew saw nothing. "Nothing wrong with the SARJ," said ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, in the live NASA TV broadcast. This could have been a very serious mishap for the aging ISS, but, thankfully, automated and human procedures collaborated to resolve the issue at breakneck speeds, and no one was harmed.

This was a developing story and was regularly updated as new information became available.

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ISS crew safe after newly docked Russian module unexpectedly fires thrusters

CNET 29 July, 2021 - 03:10pm

First the good news. The Russian-built Nauka laboratory successfully docked with the International Space Station on Thursday morning. Now, the not so good: Nauka "inadvertently and unexpectedly" fired its thrusters after docking, causing the ISS to lose attitude control (aka control over its orientation). 

According to NASA TV updates, the station went out of orientation by about 45 degrees. Thrusters built into a service module, and a Russian Progress spacecraft docked to the station, were able to correct the problem and bring the ISS back under control. 

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There are seven crew members on board from NASA, Japanese space agency JAXA, the European Space Agency and Russian space agency Roscosmos. "Recovery operations have regained attitude and the crew is in no danger," NASA tweeted.

Following this morning's docking of the Nauka module to the @Space_Station, the module's thrusters started firing at 12:45pm ET inadvertently and unexpectedly, moving the station 45 degrees out of attitude. Recovery operations have regained attitude and the crew is in no danger: pic.twitter.com/jFlDZD7ZHp

There's no explanation yet for why Nauka's thrusters fired, though the module has experienced technical challenges, including issues with its thrusters, since it launched just over a week ago.

Nauka is designed as a science lab, a docking port for spacecraft and an airlock for cosmonauts going on spacewalks. Roscosmos released the 20-year-old Pirs module from the ISS to burn up in the atmosphere and make room for the new addition.

The thruster glitch could shake up at least one other scheduled ISS launch. "Teams are also monitoring the impact to tomorrow's launch of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft," said NASA in a statement. The uncrewed Starliner mission is a test flight meant to show that the spacecraft can safely travel to and from the ISS.

NASA reports that all ISS systems are operating normally. The crew's schedules for Thursday have been scrubbed and the team will focus on working through any issues with Nauka.   

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