ISS thrown out of control by misfire of Nauka
The International Space Station (ISS) was thrown briefly out of control when jet thrusters of a newly arrived Russian research module (Nauka) inadvertently fired a few hours after it was docked to the orbiting outpost, NASA said. The seven crew members aboard — two Russian cosmonauts, three NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut and a European space agency astronaut from France — were never in any immediate danger.
- The malfunction prompted NASA to postpone until at least Aug. 3 its planned launch of Boeing’s new CST-100 Starliner capsule on a highly anticipated uncrewed test flight to the space station.
- The Starliner had been set to blast off atop an Atlas V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
- This mishap began about three hours after the multipurpose Nauka module had latched onto the space station, as mission controllers in Moscow were performing some post-docking “reconfiguration” procedures.
- The module’s jets inexplicably restarted, causing the entire station to pitch out of its normal flight position some 250 miles above the Earth, leading the mission’s flight director to declare a “spacecraft emergency, US space agency said.
- 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” that lasted a little over 45 minutes.
- At the height of the incident, the station was pitching out of alignment at the rate of about a half a degree per second.
- The Nauka engines were ultimately switched off, the space station was stabilized and its orientation was restored to where it had begun.
- What caused the malfunction of the thrusters on the Nauka module, delivered by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has yet to be determined.
- The Nauka module is designed to serve as a research lab, storage unit and airlock that will upgrade 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 scheduled.