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Nauka shook up ISS more than first revealed

According to new reporting, when the new Russian module Nauka unexpectedly began firing its engines, it rotated the International Space Station far more than first revealed, requiring a much more complicated effort to bring the station back to its correct orientation.

Zebulon Scoville, the flight director at NASA mission control in Houston, revealed that the 45 degrees that was initially reported as the amount ISS rotated was incorrect.

According to Scoville, the event has “been a little incorrectly reported.” He said that after Nauka incorrectly fired up, the station “spun one-and-a-half revolutions — about 540 degrees — before coming to a stop upside down. The space station then did a 180-degree forward flip to get back to its original orientation,” according to the report.

Scoville also shared that this was the first time that he has ever declared a “spacecraft emergency.”

It appears that though the station spun far more than first reported, the rate of rotation was still relatively slow, so it apparently did no harm to the station.

Scoville also revealed that, based on the data on hand during the event, it appeared Nauka was also trying to undock itself from the station. Mission controllers tried to counter this by firing engines on a Russian Progress freighter as well as on the Zvezda module.

Had Nauka’s engines had not stopped firing (for unknown reasons, though probably because they ran out of fuel), there was the real chance the accelerations could have shaken the station apart. Moreover, that other engines were brought into play suggests that the Russians not only did not know why Nauka’s engines fired, they had at the time no way to shut them down, and were thus forced to improvise other actions to try to save the increasingly dangerous situation.


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  • pzatchok

    Why are we working with these yahoos?

  • Jeff Wright

    They have rugged craft. It just needed an exorcist….before going like a ’58 Fury..Maximum Overdrive. Hi, I’m Johnny Knoxville…and this is ISS parkour! Gnarly 54O!

  • pawn

    Probably someone had a grudge, Soviet-style. Might have been a drinking buddy of Mr. Powerdrill.


    The only reason they went to outer-space is because it’s dark, cold and incredibly boring until something bad happens and you die.

  • Pawn, that sounds like a quote from Ivanova (Babylon 5).

  • Matt in AZ

    I am so glad Russia won’t be a party to the Artemis Accords. It’s a shame their space program has fallen so far, and I just don’t see them righting it.

  • Jay

    Thanks Jeff for that video by Scott Manning, his excellent explanation of gimble lock answered some questions about the turn not being as dramatic as the graph shows.

    Matt in AZ, “…? ???? ???’? ??? ???? ???????? ??.” That deserves a

  • mkent

    Moreover, that other engines were brought into play suggests that the Russians not only did not know why Nauka’s engines fired, they had at the time no way to shut them down, and were thus forced to improvise other actions to try to save the increasingly dangerous situation.

    I believe that is correct. My understanding is that because the hatch had not yet been opened and the cabling installed to connect Nauka to the ISS, there was no way for either the ISS computers or the on-board astronauts to command Nauka in any sense, including shutting down the engines. Nauka could only be commanded by Russian ground stations.

    Unfortunately, the incident happened while the ISS was out of range of the Russian ground stations, and it was 70 minutes before it came into range again. By then the engines had shut down on their own, presumably because they ran out of propellant.

    I also don’t believe there was any improvisation on the Russians’ part, either on the ground or on orbit, until after the incident was over. I suspect it was the various computers onboard ISS trying to counteract what was to them an unknown torque on the vehicle. But I may be wrong on this last part.

  • Skunk Bucket

    I believe the origin of the problem is that, in a bid to cut costs, Roscosmos borrowed software from the Russian Navy’s automated submarine program. It was the top of the hour, so Nauka was attempting to perform a Crazy Ivan.

  • Jeff Wright

    Manley’s video should have the music from “The Doomsday Machine” with Scotty holding on for dear life aboard the Constellation.

    Eat your your heart out Fast and Furious fans. A 5OO ton object with the rigidity of a slinky did a 54O and held together! Top that ollie! Even space failures are more awesome than skateboarders’ “careers.”

  • pzatchok

    We need to evict them.

    Make a contract for a new module and its launch. Something to replace and do better than what we loose when the Russians leave.

  • Alton

    Why are we working with these yahoos?

    Well because Clinton and his gang wanted to be nice to the Russians. That gave us a station with a high inclination orbit which made it near useless as an emergency go-to if a shuttle mission had a bad failure and greatly reduced the shuttles payload capacity to ISS.

  • Jeff Wright

    It is inert floor space now. And would rather have rode it to orbit with no capsule mind you-than some new designs. Even with an electronics box upside down, a Proton still launched. The legacy design is sound…An R-7 burned for a good little while before the escape tower fired. One shrugged off lighting strikes!
    The problem is that Russia…like Boeing…doesn’t treat old hands well. So the good engineers walk out.

    Gov’t or private…it makes no difference. If Musk died and SpaceX gets its version of Mishin-you would see the same fading, as in the Peter Principle. Grow or die as they say.
    It is just that Soviet designs are excellent undead.
    They are coming to get you, Blah! DEAD SPACE-THE SEQUEL.

  • pawn

    Yeah, it’s both frightening and depressing when you realize all the new space stuff is pretty much attributable to one mortal man with a “dream/vision” and a unprecedented level of wealth. I personally am enjoying the renaissance in my favorite technology but I’m not fooling myself that this is sustainable beyond Musk.

    The Return of the Son of Monster Bureaucracy…..DEAD SPACE…..indeed.

    It is a great time to be alive though and I am very grateful to watch my young man’s dreams edge closer to reality.

  • Edward

    pawn wrote: “Yeah, it’s both frightening and depressing when you realize all the new space stuff is pretty much attributable to one mortal man with a ‘dream/vision’ and a unprecedented level of wealth. I personally am enjoying the renaissance in my favorite technology but I’m not fooling myself that this is sustainable beyond Musk.

    This is what happens when an industry is so small. For the first three decades of space travel, all the new space stuff was pretty much attributable to one mortal man, too. He gave us a good start, but the governments had the reins, and we got limited innovation after he passed. Since he was dependent upon government funding anyway, he was limited in what he could accomplish.

    These days, we may again have one man driving the increase in access to space, but he has started a revolution in which commercial space will replace government space, and we are already starting to get what we want in space. If we lose our current inspiration, we are more likely to get more inspirations in the near future. After all, the great Robert Truax wanted to start commercial space in the early 1980s, but he could not find investors, because they (rightly) were afraid to compete with the government space monopoly. This past half decade, investors are eager to get into commercial space, because they don’t see the government as being a monopoly, or at least not for much longer.

    Bezos, and many others, had the same idea as Musk to make booster stages reusable, but Musk was better at leading his engineering staff. Reusability was in the cards, but only so long as government was willing to give up its position as both monopoly and monopsony. This is what happened to Kistler, which was unable to convince investors that NASA was serious about the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) whereas SpaceX did convince investors.

    This time, the Robert Truaxes among us will get the opportunity to shine in the commercial space industry. They don’t even have to revolutionize anything, they just have to use the technologies and methods developed now. Further innovation is icing on the cake.

  • pzatchok

    Do we have a resin that will cure in space?
    Like a fiberglass resin.

  • Jeff Wright

    I read about a glue that cures when a magnetic field is induced at…and a magnet made without having current/coils. I think Orion III spaceplanes may have to be grown in space…rod shaped stations as super fractionating towers.

    The idea was you needed constant spaceplane flights to build space factories.

    They come first with HLLVs…
    Then the spaceplanes fly to Earth and back with zero g materials advances.
    I want Super Heavy as Musk’s smallest rocket.

  • pzatchok

    If we can get a resin that cures in space either by a chemical or ultraviolet light process we could build Bigalo style habitats in space instead of building and launching them.
    Its easier to send up the materials and build them there.

  • Max

    With enough energy and material, a 3-D construction printer can build anything you design.
    The 3-D printer will make most of the tools and vehicles that are needed on Mars if the raw materials can be found and processed.

    I’ve read elsewhere that this is the primary goal of China on the moon is to find these materials and a way to process them. If they achieve this, they can build most anything in space. They have 3-D printers making office buildings currently.
    As for a resin that will harden in space, your local dentist has materials to fill cavities that cure with the UV light harder than the natural tooth.

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