A Russian research module was launched into space and successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday. But shortly after, it fired its thrusters without warning- causing a brief panic among NASA staff members that there had been an attack from outside forces. Thankfully, no one other than those aboard were ever in any danger because of Russia’s quick response to fix the problem as soon as they became aware of what happened.
But the malfunction prompted NASA to postpone until at least Aug. 3 its planned launch of Boeing’s (BA.N) new CST-100 Starliner capsule on a highly anticipated uncrewed test flight to space station after it was caught in an unprecedented accident Thursday morning as Russian mission controllers were performing some post-docking “reconfiguration” procedures, according to NASA
The module’s jets inexplicably restarted, causing the entire station to pitch out of its normal flight position. The mission’s flight director declared a “spacecraft emergency” and NASA officials said they had detected an unexpected drift in orientation followed by loss of attitude control that lasted for 45 minutes–all while 250 miles above Earth.
The ISS was in a difficult tug of war with gravity and the Earth’s gravitational pull. In what could have been its final moments, flight teams on the ground managed to restore space station’s orientation by activating thrusters on another module which had drifted away from it. NASA specialists at Johnson Space Center described their struggle as one between two modules–the orbiter being pulled out further into outer space while spinning wildly off-kilter because of inertia but still managing to maintain control over half of itself just like when two kids playfully wrestle together before they surrender themselves completely to each other after realizing there is no way either can win this battle alone. The ISS then stabilized thanks to those quick thinking engineers monitoring everything remotely back home who were able get things
The Nauka engines were ultimately switched off, the space station was stabilized and its orientation was restored to where it had begun, NASA said.
Communication with the crew was lost for several minutes twice during the disruption, but “there was no immediate danger at any time to the crew,” Montalbano said. He said “the crew really didn’t feel any movement.”
With a series of glitches, the module’s launch last week from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome raised concern. The docking procedure was seen as risky because Nauka encountered thruster issues after its post-docking issue with residual fuel in the craft on Thursday according to TASS news agency reports
Roscosmos attributed these complications due to how engines had been working for so long and were having trouble when dealing with such new technology like this!
“The process of transferring the Nauka module from flight mode to ‘docked with ISS’ mode is underway. Work is being carried out on the remaining fuel in the module,” Roscosmos was cited by TASS as saying
Nauka, the newest module of Russia’s space station that launched this morning from Kazakhstan, is designed to be a research lab and storage unit with an airlock. The Nauka (named after Russian for “science”) was scheduled to dock at 5:30 AM EST but due to strong winds it arrived four minutes late.