Russian Module's Tug of War With the Space Station Puts Starliner Launch on Hold

The ISS orbiting Earth 6 photos
Photo: NASA via Facebook
Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module NaukaRussian Multipurpose Laboratory Module NaukaThe ISS orbiting EarthRussian Multipurpose Laboratory Module NaukaRussian Multipurpose Laboratory Module Nauka
It looks like the ISS is attracting a lot of drama these days. After watching a piece of their home burn up in Earth's atmosphere, the astronauts experienced a loss of altitude control. On July 29th, after the Russian module Nauka docked the space station, it suddenly fired its thrusters.
On July 26th, the crew aboard the space laboratory bid farewell to its 20-year old Pirs module and watched it turn into a fireball upon entering the Earth's atmosphere. The event took place to clear the way for the new Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module Nauka, which will serve as a new science facility, docking port, and spacewalk airlock for future operations.

It was a 13-year wait for the new module due to multiple delays in its production and launch. Now, on Thursday, July 29th, after a week-long ride, Nauka finally docked to the space station. It was a complex maneuver, and things took a turn for the worse.

Following the new module's arrival at 9:29 a.m. EDT., Russian astronauts aboard the space station conducted leak checks between Nauka and the service module. However, about three hours later, the flight control team noticed that Nauka has suddenly fired its thrusters, pushing the ISS out of its position. This caused the space lab to lose attitude control for about 47 minutes.

To regain attitude control, NASA ordered the Zvezda module to fire its own thrusters to counteract the Russian module's force. Shortly after, the space station was stabilized. The agency stated that the crew is safe and they were not in danger.

This unfortunate event is putting the launch of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft on hold. Designed to transport astronauts to the ISS, the reusable capsule was supposed to perform its second test flight today, July 30th.

This is an important journey for Starliner, as it comes after a failed attempt to reach the space station. During the first test flight, which occurred in 2019, the spaceship encountered a software error that caused it to believe it was in an orbital insertion burn when it was not. As a result, the mission was abandoned.

Now, the spacecraft is finally ready to head to space for a second time (the last before it will launch with a crew to the ISS). The problem with Nauka isn't the only issue facing Starliner's launch date, as thunderstorms have been wreaking havoc on the launch site in Florida all week.

For the time being, NASA and Boeing have decided to delay Friday's launch attempt. The teams are now considering the next available opportunity. This move gives ISS crew more time to finish checking out the Nauka module and make sure the station is ready for the arrival of Starliner.
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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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