The International Space Station (ISS) is about to get a little bigger.
On July 21, the Russian Space Agency launched the latest module of the station into orbit on a Proton-M rocket. Dubbed the Nauka (meaning the flag), the unit is the station’s first new unit since 2016, apart from some new docking ports and airlocks. The Nauka module contains a number of important additions that will enhance the station’s capabilities.
One of the main functions of the Nauka is its guidance and navigation system, which will provide additional state control capabilities for the International Space Station. The unit’s 13-meter interior contains new research facilities and storage space. The unit also provides additional sleeping quarters for the station crew. This is an important addition, as the United States recently restored human spaceflight capabilities with two new spacecraft: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and the upcoming Boeing Starliner, which will perform another test flight later this year. The addition of both new cars alongside Russia’s Soyuz means larger crews can visit the station at the same time, and Noka will provide a home for these larger crews.
Nauka also has a new piece of technology with her: a robotic arm made by the European Space Agency. An analogue of Canadarm 2 is already on the station, the European arm is 11 meters long and is designed to “walk” around the Russian part of the International Space Station (which Canadarm cannot reach), to carry out repairs and upgrades if necessary. done.
Nauka’s development has been a turbulent process and has endured years of problems and delays. It was first built as a backup unit for Zarya – the first part of the International Space Station launched in 1998. Nauka was supposed to join his twin brother in orbit in 2007, but then failed and was delayed again several times for a variety of reasons, including That includes fuel leaks, expired warranties, and recent pandemic-related delays.
Political tensions in recent months have raised questions about Russia’s commitment to its role in the partnership on the International Space Station. Finally, the Nauka launch provides some tangible evidence that Russia is indeed determined to maintain its presence at the station, at least in the short term, which is good news for all involved.
Unfortunately, Nauka didn’t get off to a smooth start. Despite reaching Earth’s orbit and spreading its antenna and solar panels as expected, a computer malfunction caused its first orbital maneuver to fail. After some troubleshooting, it appears that the second attempt of the maneuver was successfully carried out by the standby thrusters on July 22nd.
If all goes well, it will take about a week to get to the station. The latest update from the Russian Space Agency indicated that the next attempt to raise the orbit is scheduled for Tuesday, July 27.
There are still plans to remove Pierce’s docking station from the station this week (which will burn up in the atmosphere) to make way for Noka, indicating confidence that the unit will arrive as planned.
More information: Jeff Faust, “Russia launches Nauka spacecraft to International Space Station” Space News.
Main image: Nauka launch on July 21. Roscosmos/NASA Television.
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