New Russian ISS Nauka Module Starts Firing Thrusters Randomly; Atlas V Launch Postponed Indefinitely

Nauka module docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: Roscosmos)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Russia’s new Nauka module started firing its thrusters randomly after it docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday as the crew on board struggled to shut the system down manually, a source familiar with the situation told Parabolic Arc.

They were able to stop the firing, but not until the module had pulled the space station 45 degrees off its axis, the source said. At this point, engineers believed the errant thruster firings were mostly likely caused by a fault in Nauka’s software. The source requested anonymity due not have permission to speak to media.

NASA has said the situation is under control and that the station occupants were never in any danger. The station is back under control now.

Nauka is a 43-foot long science module that also has crew accommodations for Russian cosmonauts on the space station.

Nauka experienced problems shortly after it was launched on July 21 aboard a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. There were reports of problems with the module’s engine and docking system that controllers were able to resolve during the eight-day journey to the station.

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on July 17, 2021. Starliner will launch on the Atlas V for Boeing’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft rolled out from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center earlier in the day. (Credits: Boeing/John Grant)

Launch of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, scheduled for Friday afternoon from Florida, has been postponed indefinitely as the problems with Nauka are addressed. The uncrewed Starliner is due to make a flight test to dock with the station ahead of a crewed flight test tentatively scheduled for late this year.

Starliner’s failed to reach the space station during its first flight test in December 2019 due to software flaws and communications problems. It landed safely under parachutes in New Mexico after an abbreviated orbital flight test.

NASA is planning a media telecon coming up shortly.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.