Control of the International Space Station canceled by Russian module misfire – .

Control of the International Space Station canceled by Russian module misfire – .

The International Space Station (ISS) was briefly out of control Thursday when jet thrusters from a newly arrived Russian research module inadvertently fired hours after it docked at the orbiting outpost, officials said. The seven crew members on board – two Russian cosmonauts, three NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut and an astronaut from France’s European space agency – were never in immediate danger, according to NASA and the Russian state-run news agency RIA.

But the malfunction has prompted NASA to postpone its planned launch of Boeing’s new CST-100 Starliner capsule to at least August 3 in a much-anticipated unmanned test flight to the space station. The Starliner was scheduled to take off on top of an Atlas V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday.

Thursday’s incident began about three hours after the Nauka multipurpose module locked onto the space station, as mission controllers in Moscow were performing post-docking “reconfiguration” procedures, according to NASA.

The module’s jets inexplicably restarted, bringing the entire station out of its normal flight position some 250 miles above Earth, leading the mission’s flight director to declare a “space emergency,” officials said. from the US space agency.

An unexpected drift in the station’s orientation was first detected by automated ground sensors, followed 15 minutes later by a “loss of attitude control” which lasted just over 45 minutes, according to Joel Montalbano, NASA Space Station Program Manager.


Ground-based flight crews successfully restored the orientation of the space station by activating thrusters on another orbiting platform module, NASA officials said.

In its television coverage of the incident, RIA quoted NASA specialists at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, describing the struggle to regain control of the space station as a “tug of war” between the two modules. .

At the height of the incident, the station was misaligning at a speed of about half a degree per second, Montalbano said on a NASA conference call with reporters.

The Nauka engines were eventually turned off, the space station was stabilized, and its orientation was restored to where it started, NASA said.

Communication with the crew was lost for several minutes on two occasions during the disruption, but “there was no immediate danger to the crew at any time,” Montalbano said. He said “the crew didn’t really feel any movement.”

If the situation had become so dangerous that it would have necessitated the evacuation of personnel, the crew could have escaped in a SpaceX crew capsule still parked at the outpost and designed to serve as a “lifeboat.” If necessary, said Steve Stich, head of NASA’s commercial crew program. .

The cause of the malfunction of the thrusters on the Nauka module, delivered by Russian space agency Roscosmos, has not yet been determined, NASA officials said.

Montalbano said there was no immediate sign of damage to the space station. The flight correction maneuvers used more propellant reserves than desired, “but I wouldn’t worry about a thing,” he said.

After launching last week from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the module experienced a series of issues that raised concerns about the smooth running of the docking procedure.

Roscosmos attributed Thursday’s post-docking problem to the Nauka’s engines having to run on residual fuel in the craft, TASS news agency reported.

“The process of transferring the Nauka module from flight mode to ‘docked to ISS’ mode is underway. Work is underway on the fuel remaining in the module, ”said Roscosmos, quoted by TASS.

The Nauka module is designed to serve as a research laboratory, storage unit and airlock that will enhance Russia’s capabilities aboard the ISS.

A live broadcast showed the module, named after the Russian word for “science,” docking with the space station a few minutes later than expected.

“According to telemetry data and reports from the ISS crew, the station’s onboard systems and the Nauka module are functioning normally,” Roscosmos said in a statement.

“There is contact !!! Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Twitter moments after docking.


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