An inadvertent firing up of the engines of a newly arrived Russian module destabilised the International Space Station (ISS) kin a recent incident.
“Mission control teams corrected the action and all systems are operating normally,” United States space agency Nasa said.
Thrusters on other modules of the ISS were activated to achieve this. An investigation into the incident is now under way.
There was never any danger for the seven crew members aboard the space station, stressed US and Russian officials.
This technical mishap took place three hours after the Nauka module docked with the ISS on Thursday after the module had spent eight days in flight from the Earth to reach the ISS.
Nauka’s jets started firing uncommanded at 12:34 EDT (16:45 GMT) “moving the station 45 degrees out of attitude”, said Nasa officials.
The Russian Zvezda segment and a Progress freighter then responded to push the station back into its correct pointing configuration. The incident was over by 13:29 EDT.
“What we saw today was just an awesome job by the mission control flight teams,” said Joel Montalbano, Nasa’s ISS programme manager.
“Those guys were rock stars again and got us back in attitude control. That also shows you what a robust vehicle we have, and our ability to take these contingencies, recover from them and move on,” he told reporters.
During the incident, there were two period that there was loss of communications with the ISS crew which lasted for four minutes and seven minutes. But the astronauts were safe, said the US agency.
They “really didn’t feel any movement”, it added.
Friday’s uncrewed test flight of Boeing’s Starliner capsule, a vehicle designed to ferry astronauts in the future, had to be pushed back because of the mishap.
“We wanted to give the ISS programme time to assess what had happened today, to determine the cause and make sure that they were really ready to support the Starliner launch,” explained Steve Stich, the manager of Nasa’s commercial crew programme.
“Right now the earliest opportunity would be Tuesday, 3 August, which would be a 13:20 EDT (17:20 GMT) launch.”
The 13m-long, 20-tonne Nauka was earlier attached to the rear of the orbiting platform, linking up with the other major Russian segments on the station.
Despite having a scheduled launch data as far back as in 2007, the launch suffered from repeated pushing back of schedule partly due to budget issues. However, there were also a series of technical problems during development that were found by engineers engaged in the mission.
The module experienced propulsion issues that forced workarounds from controllers in Moscow even after it was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan a week ago. However, in the end, it managed to successfully dock with the ISS on the planned date.
The new module will result in a significant boost in habitable volume for the ISS, raising it by 70 cubic metres.
In a recent warning, officials in Moscow pointed out to the age of the their on-orbit hardware, that were more than 20 years old, and informed that Russia could pull out of the station in 2025.
(Adapted from BBC.com)