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Orbital Acrobatics in the International Space Station

The space station spun 540 degrees and flipped upside down when Russia’s new module mistakenly fired its thrusters  

Sometimes space explorations resemble Hollywood movies even if it is most uncommon in real life. But now it has happened because the malfunctioning of a new Russian module resulted in orbital acrobatics in the International Space Station(ISS).

Russia’s mistake causes the entire Space Station (ISS) to spin around 540 degrees and flip upside down. After long efforts for nearly more than one hour NASA and Russian flight controllers were able to get back to their original position.

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Why did it happen?

Russian’s new space station module ‘Nauka’ unexpectedly  mistakenly fired its thrusters after docking. Nauka’s thrusters wound up spinning the station around and flipping it over. It had already encountered several technical issues on its way to the ISS. Once it docked it seemed well,  but suddenly two messages came , one which read  ‘something was wrong’ but it  was considered fake by Zebulon Scoville, a NASA flight director who was in charge of mission control.

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‘When I looked up at the video monitors and saw all the ice and thruster firings’, Scoville said. Then shocked for a while  and jumped into work to sort out the problem, he reportedly told a reporter, NY Times.  Flight controllers fired thrusters on two other parts of the Russian side of the ISS to try and get the station back into position, Scoville said. This was the first time to declare a “spacecraft emergency” in my seven years as a flight director, Scoville told the Times

On this, Russian controllers informed NASA that it happened due to their flight controllers not being able to communicate with Nauka, since it can  receive commands from the ground only.

‘Due to a short-term software failure, a direct command was mistakenly implemented to turn on the module’s engines for withdrawal,’ Vladimir Solovyov, flight director of Russia’s segment of the ISS, responded through a statement.

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NASA defines such an emergency as “an anomalous state” that, should it continue, would result in the loss of the entire space station.  Meanwhile, Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, is investigating the cause of Nauka’s mishap.


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Krishna Kumar

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