A serious accident with the Russian Nauka spacecraft changed the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday (29). Five hours after docking with the hull, at 1:34 p.m. EDT, the unit inadvertently fired its thrusters, beginning to “push” the station.
Minutes later, the International Space Station begins to lose control of the situation, which is responsible for maintaining its orientation toward Earth. There is something concerning, because the correct orientation is necessary to maintain contact with the antennas on the ground and to keep the solar panels, which are responsible for producing electrical energy, pointed toward the sun.
At 1:42 p.m., control of the situation was completely lost. To compensate for the acceleration, thrusters were powered from the ISS service module, followed by thrusters from the Progress cargo spacecraft which is currently attached to the station. The situation was only regained at 2:29 pm, when the Nauka thrusters ran out of fuel.
In a conference call, NASA officials did not report the mood in the control room during the accident. But according to Joel Montalbano, the space station program manager, “Until you run out of all your contingency plans, you really don’t have to worry. And we didn’t do that today.”
According to Montalbano, a team of NASA engineers is studying the effects of losing control of the station’s structure. In the meantime, engineers from the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, are evaluating the condition of the Nauka spacecraft. A preliminary analysis is expected to be completed by the end of Friday.
The accident forced NASA and Boeing to cancel the launch of the Starliner spacecraft on its second test mission into orbit, scheduled for Friday (30). A new date has not yet been revealed, and a press conference will be held later in the afternoon with more information.
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