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Monday, 26 July 2021

New International Space Station 'Science' module ‘Nauka’ overcomes many issues while in orbit


On July 21st, a new module to join the International Space Station launched on a Proton rocket into orbit. Since then numerous issues with the Nauka module have cropped up, but recently, it seems to be trending well.

The Nauka Module

The Nauka module is a long-planned addition to the Space Station. Originally planned for launch in 2007, the project faced regular delays throughout development. A few of the issues causing these delays included leaky fuel valves and issues in the propulsion system. The delays led to more issues, as some components were nearing the end of their guaranteed lifespan and were replaced before launch.

Once attached to the International Space Station, Nauka (which is Russian for Science) will serve as a Multipurpose Laboratory Module. It will be replacing the Pirs module. The Pirs module provided a docking port for Progress and Soyuz spacecraft and served as an airlock during the cosmonauts’ EVAs. Nauka will take over those temporarily serve as a docking port and provide a much larger space as the Russian research module. Originally, the Pirs module only had a planned lifetime of five years. Having launched to the International Space Station in late 2001, Pirs is nearing 20 years of operation.

On Monday, the Pirs module and Progress MS-16 spacecraft will undock from the station and perform deorbit burns to enter and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Launch of the Nauka module

Over the last month, while in final preparations for launch, a few sensor issues had to be addressed, which delayed the launch. On July 21st, the Proton-M rocket carrying the new module lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Nauka module experiences issues in orbit

Shortly after the launch, issues began. An orbit maneuver was delayed for 24-hours due to software issues with the fuel system. These issues also included the inability to confirm the deployment of the docking target and antenna.

Most recently, the Module underwent a make-or-break test of the rendezvous system. Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin confirmed this success of the most recent test of the Nauka module. While more issues could arise, the success of this test is a very positive outcome thus far, yet the true success of the mission won’t come until Nauka has successfully docked with the station and is performing nominally.


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