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International Space Station momentarily loses control after Russian module misfires

Published: Updated:

It has been reported that the International Space Station (ISS) was thrown off course on Thursday after the Russian research module -- Nauka, or ‘science’ – misfired about three hours after it had latched on.

The ISS was thrown off course on Thursday after the engines of the Russian Nauka, or ‘science,’ research module fired up about three hours after it had latched on.

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CNN reported that an unusual and potentially dangerous situation unfolded at the ISS, as the newly-docked Russian Nauka module inadvertently fired its thrusters causing a “tug of war” with the space station and briefly pushing it out of position, according to NASA flight controllers.

Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, did not say what had prompted Nauka’s engines to unexpectedly roar into life.

According to NASA officials, it was a “spacecraft emergency” as the space station experienced a loss of attitude (the angle at which the ISS is supposed to remain oriented) control for nearly one hour, and ground controllers lost communications with the seven astronauts currently aboard the ISS for 11 minutes during the ordeal.

A joint investigation between NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos was now ongoing.

Joel Montalbano, the head of NASA’s International Space Station Program, insists the astronauts were never in danger and that they have not noticed any damage to the ISS.

On Friday, Moscow sought to reassure international partners that an incident which briefly knocked the ISS off course had been contained and said it would press ahead with integrating a newly-attached Russian module.

Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, said work to integrate Nauka with the ISS was underway and Russian cosmonauts would later open the module’s hatch to try to access it.

It said checks on Nauka’s engines were being completed remotely by Russian specialists to ensure everyone’s safety and that the ISS was on its normal flight trajectory.

It said that the docking had been successful in so far as the seal between the new module and the rest of the ISS was hermetic.

It did not say what had prompted Nauka’s engines to unexpectedly roar into life.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky on Friday told his followers on Twitter not to worry.

“Dear friends, I’m reading your numerous comments. Don’t worry! Our work at the International Space Station to integrate the newly arrived Nauka module continues! Tonight we are going to open the hatches. Will keep you posted!”

Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, had hailed Nauka’s docking with the ISS the previous day as “a very difficult and important victory for us” and warmly accepted congratulations on Twitter from space entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Rogozin also spoke of plans to launch another Russian module to the ISS in November.

Roscosmos has suffered a series of mishaps and corruption scandals, including during the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the country’s far east where contractors were accused of embezzling state funds.

-- With Reuters

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