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Russian Module's Arrival Triggers Emergency at ISS

Surprise rocket firing moved space station out of position for nearly an hour
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2021 8:47 AM CDT
Arriving Russian Module Shifts ISS Out of Position
This Thursday image shows the 22-ton Nauka module, also called the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, as it approaches the International Space Station space station.   (NASA via AP)

(Newser) – Routine is definitely not a word with which to describe Russia's Thursday docking of a module at the International Space Station, its first in more than a decade. The long-delayed Nauka laboratory module, the largest space lab ever launched by Russia, reached ISS after several "hiccups in orbit" on its eight-day trip, according to the European Space Agency. A few hours later, it unexpectedly fired its rockets, forcing the space station out of position for 47 minutes, reports the Guardian and AP. NASA said the station was moved "45 degrees out of attitude," the equivalent of one-eighth of a complete circle. That's a big problem as the station's positioning is key for communications and for powering solar panels, hence why a "spacecraft emergency" was declared. The AP notes communications with ground control "blipped out twice for a few minutes."

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Astronauts had to fire thrusters on the Russian section of the station to fix the problem, which caused NASA to postpone an uncrewed test flight of Boeing's new CST-100 Starliner crew capsule to the space station, set for Friday. Russia's Roscosmos space agency blamed Nauka's engines working with residual fuel in the craft. "We haven't noticed any damage," space station program manager Joel Montalbano said, per the AP. He said the crew didn't feel any real movement and were never in any immediate danger. The 22-ton, 42-foot-long Nauka module, also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, will be integrated with the station over several months to provide more space for research and laboratory equipment. It traveled to ISS with the European Robotic Arm, which will be the first robot arm to work on Russia's ISS segment. (Read more International Space Station stories.)

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