A Russian space official said engineers will need to analyze whether a problem that caused the International Space Station to spin out of its normal orientation could impact the outpost’s systems in orbit.
MOSCOW – Space engineers will analyze whether a problem that caused the International Space Station to spin out of its normal orientation could have impacted any of its systems, a Russian space official said on Wednesday.
Sergei Krikalev, director of crewed space programs at Russian space company Roscosmos, stressed that last week’s incident did not inflict any observable damage to the space station, but said experts should study its potential implications. .
“It seems there is no damage,” Krikalev said in an interview broadcast by Russian state television. “But it’s up to the specialists to assess how we stressed the station and what the consequences are.”
The thrusters for the Russian laboratory module Nauka were fired shortly after the module’s arrival at the International Space Station on Thursday, slowly spinning the outpost in orbit by about a revolution and a half. Russian mission controllers fired thrusters at another Russian module and a Russian freighter attached to the space station to stop the rotation, then push the station back to its normal position.
U.S. and Russian space officials said the station’s seven-person crew were not in danger during the incident.
The station must be properly aligned to get maximum power from the solar panels and to maintain communications with space support teams on Earth. The space station’s communications with ground controllers were interrupted twice for a few minutes on Thursday.
NASA said in a tweet Tuesday that the station was misaligned 45 degrees when Nauka’s thrusters were still firing and the loss of control was discussed with the crew.
“Further analysis showed that the total attitude change before regaining normal attitude control was (tilde) 540 degrees,” NASA said, noting that “the station is in good condition and is operating normally.” .
Krikalev of Roscosmos, a veteran of six space missions who spent a total of 803 days in orbit, noted on Wednesday that the firing of the slewing motors created a dynamic load on the station’s components, necessitating further analysis to determine so some of them might be overloaded.
“The station is a pretty delicate structure, and the Russian and American segments are built as light as possible,” he said. “An additional load puts stress on the conductors of solar batteries and the frames on which they are mounted. Specialists will analyze the consequences, and it is too early to talk about its seriousness, but it was an unforeseen situation that requires detailed study.
Krikalev said Nauka’s engines fired because a problem in the control system mistakenly assumed the lab module was not yet docked to the station and activated the thrusters to remove it.
The launch of the 22-ton (20-metric-ton) module has been repeatedly delayed by technical issues. It was originally slated to go up in 2007, but funding issues delayed the launch, and in 2013, experts discovered contamination in its fuel system, resulting in a long and expensive replacement. Other Nauka systems have also been modernized or repaired.
Nauka is the first new compartment in the Russian segment of the International Space Station since 2010, offering more space for science experiments and room for the crew. Russian crew members will need to conduct up to 11 spacewalks from early September to prepare it for operations.
In 1998, Russia launched the station’s first compartment, Zarya, which was followed in 2000 by another big chunk, Zvezda, and three smaller modules in subsequent years. The last of them, Rassvet, arrived at the station in 2010.