Russians to Launch Long-Delayed Module to Space Station Next Year

Multifunctional Laboratory Module (Credit: Khrunichev)

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin has announced a new launch date — November 2019 — for the launch of its long-delayed Nauka multi-functional module to the International Space Station. Whether this new date will hold is anyone’s guess; the module’s launch will be a dozen years behind schedule by that point.

Nauka will serve as a scientific laboratory as well as a rest area for Russian astronauts aboard the space station. The module will include an airlock for experiments, crew quarters, a galley and a toilet. Nauka also includes a docking port for Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and a European-supplied robotic arm.

Construction of the Nauka module began in 1995. It was originally a backup for the Zarya module, which was the first element of space station launched in November 1998.

With Nauka no longer needed to back up Zarya, plans were made to convert it to a multi-purpose module with a launch scheduled for 2007. However, technical problems repeatedly delayed the launch.

In 2013, RSC Energia engineers found a leaking valve and contamination in Nauka’s fuel system.  The module was shipped back to Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center for repairs and cleaning.

The following year, Russian officials announced that Nauka would be further delayed because it needed a new propulsion system. The propulsion unit installed on the module had exceeded its warranty.

Khrunichev Strikes Again: New Russian ISS Module Full of Flaws

Multifunctional Laboratory Module (Credit: Khrunichev)
Multifunctional Laboratory Module (Credit: Khrunichev)

Russian media are reporting that the latest screw up by disaster-prone Khrunichev involves the long-delayed Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), which was originally set to be launched to the International Space Station next April.

“The Energia Corporation is completing factory tests of this product,” a source told Interfax-AVN earlier this week. “But the module cannot be accepted the way it is. When the electrical tests are over it will be returned to the producer, the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, which may work on it for another 12-18 months.”

Details are a bit sketchy, but reports indicate there are a number of issues with the new scientific module, including material found inside the pipes.

The report further indicates that the module began construction in 1995 as Functional Cargo Block 2 (FGB-2). The FGB-1 module, also known as Zarya,  was the first element of the International Space Station to be launched.

In 2004, FGB-2 was re-purposed as a multi-use module with the goal of attaching it to the space station in 2007. However, the project has been delayed repeatedly since that decision.

Khrunichev has been the most problem plagued company in the Russian space industry. Over the past three years, it has suffered repeatedly failures of its Proton rocket. The most recent failure occurred in July, when a Proton launched three GLONASS satellites into the ground at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Khrunichev Completes Building MLM for ISS

Multifunctional Laboratory Module (Credit: Khrunichev)

MOSCOW (Khunichev/Roscosmos PR) — Khrunichev has completed the fabrication and assembly of the flight product multifunctional Laboratory Module (MLM) for the International Space Station (ISS).

During the night of December 6-7, the module was sent to the RSC Energia for further electrical testing of the on-board systems.

The MLM provides the following functions for the Russian segment of the ISS:

  • Provide docking ports for transport ships and research units (transport manned spacecraft “Soyuz-TMA” and cargo spacecraft “Progress M” and their modifications) and research modules in automatic mode or in manual docking;
  • Transit fuel THC “Progress” in the tanks of the SM and FGB;
  • Management of ISS via bank with its engine;
  • Provision of storage capacity;
  • Maintain partial life-support functions;
  • Organize the European arm and its functioning;
  • Placement and operation of scientific equipment.

Khrunichev is responsible for MLM’s hull, propulsion, thermal control system and fire detection and suppression system. Khrunichev will launch the module aboard its Proton rocket.

Khrunichev Progresses on New ISS Multipurpose Lab Module

While the American part of the International Space Station is largely complete, Russia is continuing work on expanding its capabilities. Below is a brief press release from Khrunichev website about a new module set for launch next year followed by a detailed description.

MOSCOW (Khrunichev PR) — In the Khrunichev Space Center, work is continuing for the flight of the multifunction products laboratory module (MLM) for the International Space Station.

To date, the docking port has been installed on the transition chamber….Equipment layouts for the board layout and the cable network have been installed inside the module. Tests on the temperature control system and the pneumatic hydraulic systems have been undertaken.

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