Errant Russian spacecraft thruster firing tilts space station again

A Russian Soyuz crew vehicle set to return to Earth tomorrow caused the International Space Station to lose its attitude control on Friday morning when its thrusters fired longer than planned. It was the second such incident on the station involving a Russian vehicle this year.

NASA described the incident in a blog post on Friday:

At 5:02 a.m. EDT today, Russian flight controllers conducted a scheduled thruster firing test on the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft that is scheduled to return to Earth Saturday night with three crew members aboard. 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. Within 30 minutes, flight controllers regained attitude control of the space station, which is now in a stable configuration. The crew was awake at the time of the event and was not in any danger.

Flight controllers are continuing to evaluate data on the station’s brief attitude change due to the thruster firing. NASA and Roscosmos are collaborating to understand the root cause.

Roscosmos described the incident on the Russian space corporation’s website.

During the Soyuz MS-18 engines testing, the station’s orientation was impacted. As a result, the International Space Station orientation was temporarily changed.

The station’s orientation was swiftly recovered due to the actions of the ISS Russian Segment Chief Operating Control Group specialists.

The station and the crew are in no danger.

It was the second such incident in less than three months. On July 29, Russia’s newly arrived Nauka module began firing its thrusters after docking with the space station. The orbiting facility made one and a half rotations before Nauka ran out of fuel.

The Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft is scheduled to return to Earth on Sunday with cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko. Novitskiy has been on the station for six months; Peresild and Shipenko arrived 11 days ago to film a movie named “Challenge.”

NASA TV will air the Soyuz MS-18 crew’s farewells, undocking, and landing. Coverage will be available on the space agency’s website, and the NASA app at the following times (all EDT):

  • 4:15 p.m. – Farewells (at about 4:35 p.m.)
  • 9 p.m. – Soyuz undocking and a replay of hatch closure (undocking at 9:14 p.m.)
  • 11:15 p.m. – Deorbit burn (11:42 p.m.) and landing (12:36 a.m.).

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