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A Russian module intended for ISS, delayed for years because of technical problems, appears to have more issues that could delay it further, and might even prevent its launch entirely.
As its original 2007 launch date came and went, more and more delays pushed back the MLM’s launch. Then, in 2013, engineers discovered a leaking fueling valve as well as contamination in the propulsion system. At the time, reports said repairs and cleanup would take nearly 10 months.
Those months stretched into years. During the last four years, engineers have been working diligently replacing a jungle of pipelines, valves, and thrusters—part of Nauka’s sophisticated propulsion system—in an effort to get rid of the sawdust contamination introduced during botched upgrades. Because the spacecraft has stayed earthbound much longer than intended, parts of Nauka have also slipped out of warranty.
Fighting off political and logistical concerns surrounding the project—as well suggestions that they ground the MLM entirely until it can serve as the first module of Russia’s own space station—the tedious cleanup and repair effort entered its final phase this year, and the module finally appeared on track for launch at the end of this year or, at the very latest, the first half of 2018.
Then things went from bad to worse. In the past few weeks, engineers found the same contamination they’ve been fighting for years inside the module’s propellant tanks. The repair team tried to wash off these contaminants, but so far all efforts to cleanse the vessels have failed.
Read the whole article. The situation is not good.