Space Station Emergency Prompted by Russian Thruster Firing

  • General

On Sunday, the same spacecraft that experienced the thruster incident is expected to bring back to Earth a Russian film crew that was flown to the station on a different Soyuz spacecraft on Oct. 5. NASA mission control, heard on a livestream of mission control audio, indicated that the thruster firing incident delayed a planned film shoot in the station’s cupola, a room with six windows facing Earth. Ms. Cheshier said the MS-18 spacecraft’s undocking with the crew inside would occur at 9:14 p.m. Saturday, as planned.

In July, Russia docked its Nauka module to the orbital base, adding a new room for science experiments on the Russian segment of the station. Hours later, Nauka’s thrusters suddenly started firing, spinning the station one and a half revolutions — about 540 degrees — before it came to a stop upside down.

Unexpected jolts to the space station, which is the size of a football field, put stress on the forest of instrumentation on its exterior. After the Nauka incident, Zebulon Scoville, a NASA flight director who managed the agency’s emergency response that day, said on Twitter that he had never “been so happy to see all solar arrays + radiators still attached.”

NASA and Russia have maintained a long relationship on the space station over the past two decades. But in recent years, elements of the station have showed signs of their age, including some air leaks on the Russian side.

NASA wants to continue the partnership with Russia and keep the station operating through 2030, gradually handing off American elements of the laboratory to private U.S. companies. But Russia’s space chief, Dmitri Rogozin, has suggested that Moscow could pull out of the orbital partnership in 2025, one of the latest signals that ties between the two space powers are beginning to fray.

Russia has ramped up its relationship with China’s space program. The two countries signed an agreement in March to work on lunar bases, which would rival the plans of NASA’s Artemis moon exploration program.

China launched the first elements of its own new space station this year and sent its second crew of three astronauts there on Friday for a six-month mission.

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