Russia's much anticipated docking of its new module to the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday involved a rare near-miss event which could have potentially resulted in disaster.
About three hours after Russia's Nauka module successfully docked to the station, it unexpectedly and mysteriously started firing its thrusters, moving the entire station out of its normal position. "All told, the station lost attitude control [a term for the process of controlllng a spacecraft's orientation relative to Earth] for a total of about 47 minutes, according to NASA officials," one report said of the space drama.
During the ordeal which sent both the Russian side and NASA scrambling to immediately identify the problem, halt the thrusters, and then engage in a "tug of war" of sorts to get the ISS back in balance, the space station had in the end moved out of its normal orientation by around 45 degrees
Further details of the ordeal are detailed in Business Insider as follows:
The long-awaited science module had already encountered several technical issues on its way to the ISS, but once it docked to the space station on Thursday morning, it seemed to be in the clear. Then about three hours after its arrival — at about 12:45 p.m. ET — Nauka began firing its thrusters, which rotated the station by 45 degrees. Space journalist Anatoly Zak was among the first to notice something had gone wrong.
"Numerous particles are also seen outside the station indicating either major propellant leak or gas vent," Zak tweeted.
And the fix came about as follows:
In response to the glitch, NASA's flight controllers began firing thrusters on another part of the ISS, the service module, in what they called a "tug of war" to get the station back onto its normal orbital path.
Around 1:30 p.m. ET, ISS flight controllers announced that Nauka's thrusters had finally stopped firing and the ISS had regained control of its positioning.
The flight controllers had reportedly been forced to activate thrusters aboard the Russian Zvezda module and a Progress cargo ship in order to reorient the ISS correctly.
ICYMI: Earlier today, the Russian Nauka module inadvertently fired its thrusters while docked to the @Space_Station. Mission Control teams corrected the action and all systems are operating normally. The crew was never in any danger. Stay tuned for a media telecon later today: pic.twitter.com/bjuDmdiZu5— NASA (@NASA) July 29, 2021
After the incident NASA put out this official statement: "Earlier today, the Russian Nauka module inadvertently fired its thrusters while docked to the Space Station . Mission Control teams corrected the action and all systems are operating normally. The crew was never in any danger."