NASA on July 29, 2021, announced a brief but apparently minor mishap involving the International Space Station (ISS), in which a Russian science vessel’s thrusters caused the orbiting laboratory to briefly spin out of control. The crew aboard the ISS was never in danger, NASA stated:
ICYMI: Earlier today, the Russian Nauka module inadvertently fired its thrusters while docked to the @Space_Station. Mission Control teams corrected the action and all systems are operating normally. The crew was never in any danger. Stay tuned for a media telecon later today: pic.twitter.com/bjuDmdiZu5
— NASA (@NASA) July 29, 2021
Science and technology news site The Verge reported that NASA officials, during a news conference, stated that the space station had shifted as much as 45 degrees during the incident:
The erroneous thruster firings from Russia’s Nauka module, a new 23-ton multipurpose laboratory, began a few hours after it docked to the ISS at 12:25PM ET, NASA spokesman Rob Navias said. Mission control at NASA’s astronaut headquarters in Houston first noticed the space station deviate from its normal position a few minutes later, triggering an automatic alert to the astronauts on board. By 12:42PM ET, the space station had lost control of its positioning, NASA’s ISS manager Joel Montalbano said during a press conference.
The station, an ornate science laboratory with 16 pressurized living and cargo modules, was pitching off track by about 1.5 degrees each minute, NASA officials said. Thrusters on another side of the space station, from Russia’s Zvezda service module, fired up to counter the force from Nauka in what NASA’s mission control communicator described as a “tug of war.”
Seven crew members were aboard the ISS at the time, hailing from the U.S., Japan, and Russia.
NASA said that following the mishap, the agency and Boeing elected to “stand down” on the scheduled launch of Starliner, an uncrewed capsule scheduled to take off on July 30. The Starliner launch was reset for August 3.