Early reports suggest that the International Space Station suffered no damage from an incident last week involving the newly arrived Nauka module. That may be the case, but Russian officials are launching an investigation to assess the true impact of the terrifying accident.
Sergei Krikalev, the director of manned space programs at Roscosmos, made the announcement during an interview with Rossiya-24 TV Channel on Wednesday. There is likely no damage to the ISS, he said, but the orbital outpost’s unexpected rotation must now “take into account” when evaluating its longevity, Krikalev said in a translation. provided that by the Russian state news agency TASS.
To which he added: “Nothing has been broken off the station, I can assure you. Specialists are now going to assess how much we have loaded the station and what the consequences are.” No details have been given about who will conduct the investigation or when it might start.
By “loaded”, Krikalev refers to the load placed on the space station when it performed unexpectedly one and a half back flips on Thursday, July 29. The freshly arrived Nauka module accidentally fired his thrusters about three hours after docking, causing the space station to roll over. In response, flight controllers used thrusters on the Zvezda Service Module and a Progress freighter to counter Nauka’s thrust. Attitude control was regained when the space station was completely upside down, requiring another 180-degree turn to return it to its original position.opera orientation.
Nauka’s thrusters caused the ISS to rotate at a speed of 0.5 degrees per second, which NASA say is “well within the design limits of station systems.” All preliminary analyzes suggest that the “station remains in good condition,” as a NASA spokesperson explained to me yesterday, adding that “the astronauts were not in immediate danger.” Roscosmos has accused a software error NSr the incident.
But, as Krikalev admitted, this was far from an ordinary situation, and an investigation is now warranted. The ISS is “a pretty delicate facility,” he said during the interview, as both the “Russian and American segments are made with the utmost lightness.” The additional load, he said, would have exerted stress “on the drive of the solar panel and the frame on which all these structures were installed.”
That the accident resulted in a number of hithertounnoticed side effects is a clear possibility. The station’s solar panels must be perfectly aligned to ensure optimum performance. Same deal for the antennas, which, if not properly oriented, can affect communications with ground stations on Earth. There could also be other problems, but Krikalev says subsequent research should determine this.
Overly cheerful statements from space agencies cannot hide the fact that this was a truly unprecedented and terrifying event. The newly announced investigation is both sensible and necessary, regardless of what the findings might reveal.
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