The entire Russian International Space Station (ISS) went out of position yesterday after a new Russian science module in the last decade – the station’s first new module – was docked. About three hours after successfully docking the module, the Russian word for science, inadvertently fired its thruster, causing the ISS to become briefly unstable. Russian astronauts were checking for leaks through the new module and the service module when automatic sensors on the ground detected the problem.
The ISS lost control of its orientation for about 47 minutes due to unexpected pressure, which came out at a speed of about half a degree per second, NASA said at a news conference yesterday, but the crew was never in danger, or in fact, felt any movement. After the crash moved the station 45 degrees from altitude, flight controllers activated the thruster and a progress freight station on the right in the Russian Zvezda segment, returning it to its correct position. The event started at 12.34 EDT and ended at 1.29 PM EDT.
“What we’ve seen today is a tremendous work of the mission control flight team,” NASA ISS program manager Joel Montalbano told reporters. “These guys were rock stars again and brought our attitudes back under control. It shows you what a powerful vehicle we have and our ability to accept these crises, recover from them and move forward.”
Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s Human Spaceflight, called it “a wonderful time.” Communication between the ISS crew and ground control was briefly cut off twice, once for four minutes and then for seven minutes, but astronauts on the station don’t seem to be surprised to see the short drama, astronaut Oleg Novitskiy tweeted: “Dear friends, I’m yours. I am reading numerous comments.
Don’t worry! We continue to work on the International @Space_Station to integrate the new #boat module! However, there is a knock-on from this accident: today’s unconventional test of NASA and Boeing’s Boeing Starliner capsule has pushed back the flight, which will one day take passengers into space. At the conference, Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s commercial crew program, said, “We wanted to give the ISS program time to evaluate what happened today, to determine the cause and to make sure they were really ready to support the Starliner launch.” The first opportunity for a new launch is on Tuesday, August 3rd, so hopefully, this space is a drama-free launch next week.