Russia accuses software glitches after space station temporarily out of control


Moscow — The potential for software glitches and loss of human attention was due to the loss of control of the International Space Station, but work was underway to activate the newly installed module at the center of the accident. , Russian space officials said on Friday.

A Russian research module, Nauka’s Jet Thruster, inadvertently reignited on Thursday hours after docking at the space station, and the entire outpost in orbit was on Earth with seven crew members. Pitched out of normal flight position about 250 miles above.

The mission flight director immediately declared a space flight emergency as ground engineers struggled to regain the stability of the vast research satellite, according to NASA’s case description.

NASA told reporters Thursday that the station’s attitude control was due to a ground flight team activating a thruster on another module at the outpost and another cargo ship previously docked at the complex. Was lost for 45 minutes.

According to NASA, the time station measured the length of the American football field and pitched slowly at a peak speed of about 0.5 degrees per second, equivalent to about four revolutions per hour.

During the emergency, communication with the crew was also lost twice in a few minutes.

On Friday, Vladimir Solovyov, designer general of Russian space agency Energia, tried to reassure international partners that the incident was contained, and astronauts mean “science” in Russian. He said Nauka would be up and running soon.

“A short-term software failure incorrectly implemented a direct command to turn on and withdraw the module’s engine, changing the direction of the entire complex,” he said in a statement.

The Nauka (Science) multipurpose experimental module can be seen while docked to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Nauka (Science) Multipurpose Experiment Module is seen when docked on the International Space Station (ISS) on July 29, 2021. (Distribution via Roscosmos / Reuters)

‘Human Factors’

“The crew is currently busy balancing the pressure on the Nauka module. In the afternoon, the crew opens the hatch, enters the module, turns on the means needed to purify the atmosphere, and is normal. Start normal work. “

Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, later said that human carelessness may be involved.

“Everything was going well, but there was a human factor. There was some euphoria (after successful docking) and everyone was relaxed,” he said on the Komsomolskaya Prouda website. I was told that I said it.

NASA and Roscosmos each endanger the seven crew members on board (two Russian astronauts, three US astronauts, and two others from Japan and France). He said he never did.

Both agencies also said the situation was resolved in a relatively short order without any apparent damage to the space station. However, NASA’s Space Station Program Manager Joel Montalbano said that in more than 20 years of orbiting laboratory history, docked vehicle or module thrusters have so misfired a few times. I said I can only remember.

Nauka (Science) Multipurpose Experimental Module
The Nauka (Science) multipurpose experimental module can be seen when docked on the International Space Station (ISS) on July 29, 2021. (OlegNovitskiy / Roscosmos / Handout via Reuters)

The accident also urged NASA to postpone the planned launch of Boeing’s Starliner space capsule to a test flight to the long-awaited unmanned space station. The explosion set for Friday from Cape Canaveral, Florida was tentatively postponed to August 3.

Russian astronaut Oleg Novitskiy on board told his followers not to worry on Twitter on Friday.

“Dear friend, I read a lot of your comments. Don’t worry! Work on the International Space Station to integrate the newly arrived Nauka module will continue! Open the hatch tonight . Keep posting! “

Roscosmos said the Nauka engine was being checked remotely by Russian experts and the station was in normal flight orbit to ensure continued safety.

Docking the module was otherwise successful.

Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, praised Nauka’s arrival the day before as “a very difficult and important victory for us” and warmly accepted congratulations on Twitter from space entrepreneur Elon Musk. ..

Logozin also talked about plans to launch another Russian module on the station in November.

Roscosmos suffers from a series of accidents and corruption scandals, including the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Far East of the country, where contractors have been accused of embezzlement of national funds.

By Andrew Osborn and Alexander Marrow