Russian officials have now suggested two explanations for the accidently ignition of the engines on the new Nauka module to ISS, neither of which appears to have involved any real investigation.
Vladimir Solovyov, flight director of the space station’s Russian segment, blamed the incident on a “short-term software failure.” In a statement released Friday by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Solovyov said because of the failure, a direct command to turn on the lab’s engines was mistakenly implemented.
He added the incident was “quickly countered by the propulsion system” of another Russian component at the station and “at the moment, the station is in its normal orientation” and all its systems “are operating normally.”
Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin later Friday suggested that “human factor” may have been at play. “There was such euphoria (after Nauka successfully docked with the space station), people relaxed to some extent,” Rogozin said in a radio interview. “Perhaps one of the operators didn’t take into account that the control system of the block will continue to adjust itself in space. And it determined a moment three hours after (the docking) and turned on the engines.” [emphasis mine]
So, was it human error? Or was it the software programming? Or both?
No matter what the specific cause, these conflicting stories, thrown out in almost an offhand manner, demonstrate that the real fundamental cause was the terrible, sloppy, and error-prone quality control systems at Roscosmos and all the aerospace companies it has taken over since the Putin administration consolidated Russia’s aerospace industry into a single government-run corporation.
These kinds of failures seem to happen with Russia now repeatedly. From launch aborts to launch failures to corruption in contracting to corruption in engine construction to plain simple sabotage, mistakes and errors and poor planning and dishonesty seem to hound their space effort at every level. Thank God Americans no longer have to fly on a Soyuz capsule, though one American on board ISS is still scheduled to come home on one.
Without competition and freedom, there is no pressure in Russia to improve, to improvise, to rethink, and to clean house when a management gets stale or corrupt. Instead, operations stultify and develop dry rot. They can’t see problems or even fix them efficiently. If anything, management circles the wagons to protect itself, while often deliberately ignoring the problems.
Rocket science is hard. It can quickly kill people when done poorly.
I think it will be a great relief to end this partnership. And the sooner the better.
My July fund-raising campaign for 2021 has now ended. Thank you all for your donations and subscriptions. While this year’s campaign was not as spectacular as last year’s, it was the second best July campaign since I began this website.
And if you have not yet donated or subscribed, and you think what I write here is worth your support, you can still do so. I depend on this support to remain independent and free to write what I believe, without any pressure from others. Nor do I accept advertisements, or use oppressive social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.
If you choose to help, you can contribute via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:
If Patreon or Paypal don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
Cortaro, AZ 85652