What caused International Space Station to be knocked out of orientation? Russia explains
The thruster firing on the Russian Nauka module had pushed the International Space Station out of orientation for a while.
The Russian-built Nauka laboratory managed to dock safely with the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday morning. And then something troublesome happened. The Nauka inadvertently and unexpectedly fired its thrusters after docking and this caused the ISS to lose attitude control or control over its orientation. While things were brought under control soon, it was a scary incident and the Russian space agency Roscosmos has said that it happened due to a “short-term software failure”.
According to the Roscosmos statement from ISS Russian segment flight director Vladimir Solovyov, the docking mechanics on Nauka worked reliably but "a direct command was mistakenly implemented to turn on the module's engines for withdrawal, which led to some modification of the orientation of the complex as a whole”. According to the NASA TV updates, the ISS went out of orientation by about 45 degrees and the thrusters on the service module and a Russian Progress spacecraft docked to the station were able to correct the issue and bring the ISS back under control.
Currently, there are seven crew members onboard the ISS from NASA, Japanese space agency JAXA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and Roscosmos. "Recovery operations have regained attitude and the crew is in no danger," NASA tweeted on Thursday.
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— NASA (@NASA) July 29, 2021
The new module that caused the trouble, Nauka, had experienced technical challenges, including issues with its thrusters, since it launched just a little more than a week ago. Nauka is designed to be a science lab, a docking port for spacecraft, and an airlock for cosmonauts going on spacewalks. Roscosmos released the older 20-year-old Pirs module from the ISS to burn up in the atmosphere and make room for the new Nauka.
Nauka’s thruster glitch has disrupted at least one other scheduled ISS launch. Boeing had planned to launch its Starliner aircraft to the ISS on Friday and this has been rescheduled due to the thruster glitch to August 3 at least. The uncrewed Starliner mission is a test flight meant to show that this spacecraft can travel safely to ISS and back.
According to NASA reports, all ISS systems are operating normally and the crew’s schedules were realigned while they focused on working on the Nauka issues. According to Roscomos, the crew is conducting operations that will allow for the opening of the hatch between Nauka and ISS.