The planned launch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) has been postponed to Tuesday, August 3, following a mishap with a newly docked Russian module. Starliner’s flight was originally scheduled to take place today, July 30, 2021, but NASA and Boeing officials agreed to postpone the flight following a “spacecraft emergency” at the space station after accidental engine firings on the new Nauka module caused a loss of attitude control the ISS.
The Nauka module’s engines began firing at 12:45 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 29, “accidentally and unexpectedly,” NASA said, moving the station 45 degrees out of position. After 47 minutes, the rescue operations resumed both on the ISS and on the ground. NASA said the space station’s seven-person crew was in no danger.
However, things must have been annoying enough for NASA ISS flight director Zebulon Scoville to tweet, “I’ve never been …
Greg Whitney, MLM senior flight director, and I split the shift today. I’ve never been: 1) more proud of the team that sits in the MCC and lives on the @Space_Station, 2) had to declare a spacecraft emergency so far, 3) was so happy that all solar systems + radiators are still in place. https://t.co/Bmox4WVZsn
– Zebulon Scoville (@Explorer_Flight) July 29, 2021
In a statement released by the Russian space agency Roskosmos, Vladimir Solovyov, flight director of the Russian space station’s Russian segment, blamed a “short-term software bug” for the incident in which a direct command to turn on the laboratory’s engines was incorrectly implemented.
The position control was quickly counteracted “by the drive system” of the Russian Zvezda module to which Nauka was attached. In addition, engines fired in a Progress cargo ship docked on the other side of Zvezda to straighten the ship.
Artist concept of the Nauka module. About NASA.
During the loss of position control, communication broke out for a few minutes, as the position of the ISS is important both for communication and for the energy supply of solar panels. Both NASA and Roscosmos say the station is now back in its normal orientation and all systems are functioning normally.
“We did not notice any damage to the ISS,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA space station program manager, during a conference call following the incident. “One of the things we do after a dynamic event like this is sit down with our structural loads team and review all the data, get all of the telemetry, and do an assessment. And that will be the next step. “
The incident caused NASA to postpone a new test flight for Starliners planned for today. The Starliner’s launch – a reusable crew transport capsule – now has its earliest available launch opportunity on August 3 at 1:20 p.m. EDT, with an immediate backup window for the 4th mile-high station (250 miles high) before astronauts get on board to be brought. Software problems spoiled the first test.
Take a look at Rosie the Rocketeer and get an overview of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 mission this week’s Space to Ground. Launch is scheduled for Tuesday, August 3, at 1:20 p.m. ET at the earliest. pic.twitter.com/YnLBwvmBBs
– International Space Station (@Space_Station) July 30, 2021
Russia’s long-delayed 22-tonne (20-tonne) science laboratory, Nauka, arrived eight days after its launch from the Russian launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Nauka is the first new compartment for the Russian segment of the ISS since 2010. On Monday, the docking compartment of the Pirs was undocked and left by the station to make room for the new laboratory.
The latest updates on the ISS and Starliner situation can be found on NASA’s ISS blog.