Errant Russian spacecraft thruster firing tilts space station by accident again

Unplanned thruster firings by a Russian spacecraft briefly knocked the International Space Station off-kilter at this time (Oct. 15), the second such incident in lower than three months.

The spacecraft concerned at this time was the Soyuz MS-18, which is scheduled to carry cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, movie director Klim Shipenko and actor Yulia Peresild again to Earth early Sunday morning (Oct. 17). Russian flight controllers fired up the car’s thrusters at 5:02 a.m. EDT (0902 GMT) in a deliberate pre-departure check. 

“The thruster firing unexpectedly continued after the end of the test window, resulting in a loss of attitude control for the International Space Station at 5:13 a.m.,” NASA officers wrote in an update this afternoon.

“Within 30 minutes, flight controllers regained attitude control of the space station, which is now in a stable configuration,” they added. “The crew was awake at the time of the event and was not in any danger.”

Related: International Space Station at 20: A photo tour

The orbiting lab briefly tilted from its regular orientation this morning by 57 levels, according to the Russian news agency Interfax, which cited communications between Novitskiy and Vladimir Solovyov, the flight director of the station’s Russian section.

Space station managers do not but know what precipitated the anomalously lengthy firing. NASA and Russia’s federal space agency, often called Roscosmos, are wanting into that collectively in the mean time, NASA officers wrote within the replace. 

It’s additionally unclear why the MS-18’s thrusters stopped firing, although the station’s handlers have some concepts.

“We think — and we haven’t got confirmation — we think the thrusters stopped firing because they reached their prop[ellant] limit,” NASA flight director Timothy Creamer informed agency astronauts shortly after the thrusters shut down, according to The New York Times. “Moscow is checking into it and doing their data analysis.”

The space station was additionally by accident spun on July 29, when the thrusters of Russian’s newly arrived Nauka module did some unplanned firing. That incident was much more excessive, rotating the orbiting lab by about 540 degrees

Russian officers traced the July 29 occasion to a software program glitch.

“Due to a short-term software failure, a direct command was mistakenly implemented to turn on the module’s engines for withdrawal, which led to some modification of the orientation of the complex as a whole,” Roscosmos officers wrote in a statement published on July 30.

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Despite at this time’s drama, the Soyuz MS-18 stays on observe to return to Earth this weekend. The spacecraft will undock from the station on Saturday (Oct. 16) round 9:14 p.m. EDT (0114 GMT on Oct. 17) and can contact down on the steppes of Kazakhstan about 3.5 hours later. You can watch all of the motion here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV.

Novitskiy spent about six months in orbit, however Shipenko and Peresild are coming house after simply 12 days. The duo launched on Oct. 5 to movie a part of a Russian film referred to as “Challenge” on the space station. They lifted off with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, who stays on the orbiting lab.

Mike Wall is the creator of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a ebook concerning the seek for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

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