We’ve waited since December of 2019 to see the Boeing Starliner capsule reach the ISS (International Space Station) and now we will wait a little long. Earlier today at 9:29 AM Est the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos’ MLM (Multipurpose Laboratory Module) docked. This new segment which launched on July 21st will be Russia’s primary research module for the ISS. Just three hours after docking, cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov were preparing to open the hatch between the module and the Russian Zvezda module when the MLM’s thrusters began firing. This was unexpected and moved the entire station forty-five degrees out of attitude, stated NASA spokesperson Rob Navias.
For about an hour there was a “tug-of-war” going on with the ISS as the rope in between. As the Russian MLM module had its thrusters firing mission control began firing the thrusters on another module to compensate and reposition the space station. Mission control went into action also giving the crew above the guidance plans to make sure the solar arrays and other equipment would have proper orientation in case of communications failure were to take place, which they did, twice. For four minutes then later for seven minutes ground control lost all contact with the space station. During this time a spacecraft emergency was declared which allows maximum use of communications systems. The crew was also asked to look out the windows to search for any debris that may be floating around. No damage was reported but NASA will sit down with their structural loads team to review all the data for an assessment. Astronauts onboard reported no shaking or rattling onboard the ISS and they did not see anything of note outside the windows either while operations were underway to reposition the space station into its proper orbit.
NASA stated several times that at no point were any of the crew aboard the ISS in any danger, and on the press conference which started at 4:30 PM Est today they also stated that this is what they prepare for. That the teams did not have to go into any new procedures and knew exactly what to do. It was also stated that SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavour could have been powered up within several minutes in a crew emergency and depart on its own. It is unclear exactly how much propellant was burned from the MLM module and the other module used to correct the attitude of the space station but they did say that not enough to cause concern. Steve Stitch of NASA did also confirm that the next earliest launch date is Tuesday, August 3rd at 1:20 PM Est. Until then the ISS program will use their time to asses station readiness in prospect of another new vehicle being delivered.