The Soyuz MS-18 engines ‘unexpectedly continued’ firing thrusters after a test performed by astronaut Oleg Novitsky should have ended
“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.”
The Soyuz module had been docked to the ISS since April when Russian astronaut Oleg Novitsky performed the test, theNew York Times reported. When the test was expected to end “the thruster firing unexpectedly continued,” a Nasa spokesperson said, and orbital positioning control was lost.
The station was turned by 57 degrees, which Russian mission control reportedly said was “no big deal”, and Novitsky was apparently told to “take it easy”.
Nasa mission control told astronauts on the station to begin emergency procedures, although flight controllers retained command of the station within half an hour.
“As you can well imagine, when things start going off the rails like that, there’s enough noise on the radar that the clarity of what actually happened is a bit of a mystery,” Nasa slight director Timothy Creamer told American astronauts shortly after the event.
“We think — and we haven’t got confirmation — we think the thrusters stopped firing because they reached their prop limit”, Creamer also said, adding that “Moscow is checking into it and doing their data analysis.”
This is not the first time such an incident has occurred. In July, Russia’s Nauka module suddenly started firing its thrusters – turning the space station entirely upside down before it righted itself. In total, the station rotated 540 degrees, and fell 45 degrees outside of its normal altitude.
Reports suggested that Nauka burnt through its fuel during the incident, so that it could not happen again, and Nasa said the crew “was never … in any danger.”
Although the Russian space agency and Nasa have been in close cooperation in the past, Roscosmos is building its own $6 billion space station that it plans to launch in 2030, and is expected to give notice to its international partners in 2025.
“If in 2030, in accordance with our plans, we can put it into orbit, it will be a colossal breakthrough,” Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin has said. The Russian station is likely to be manned by robots with artificial intelligence, while human cosmonauts would periodically visit the craft. This is because the Russian station’s orbit path would expose it to higher radiation.