Zebulon Scoville NASA flight director, said that the incident with Russia's Nauka Module docking last week was more serious than originally reported. This image shows Russia's Nauka module docking with the International Space Station July 29, 2021.
Last week, an accidental Russian module pushed the International Space Station from its place. NASA's flight director now says that the incident was far more serious than NASA originally reported.
Russia's eagerly awaited research module Nauka docked to the space station on Thursday morning (July 29, 2009). A few hours later, however, the module accidentally fired its thrusters and tilted the space station briefly, causing it to lose "attitude control".
NASA stated on Twitter that the orbiting laboratory tilted 45 degrees. Officials repeated this claim during public comments. According to The New York Times reporting, Zebulon Scoville (NASA flight director) was the one who led mission control in Houston during this event. He claims that the station tilted more than 45 degrees.
Scoville claims that the event was "a bit incorrectly reported". Scoville stated that Nauka had incorrectly started up and the station spun one-and-a half revolutions around 540 degrees before it came to a halt upside down. According to the report, the space station did then a 180-degree forward turn to return to its original orientation.
Scoville shared with us that it was the first time he had ever declared a "spacecraft crisis."
Related: Russia's Nauka module tilts into space station with unplanned thruster fire
NASA held a press conference on Thursday to discuss the events. Joel Montalbano, the space station program manager, stated that there was no immediate danger to the crew. However, it is important to immediately address any loss of attitude control. The crew was not in an immediate emergency.
Scoville also echoed the sentiment and said that astronauts aboard were not in danger. He did however reveal some details about the day's events, which show that the mishap was more serious than NASA initially suggested.
According to the report Scoville assumed mission control following the docking. Scoville was actually on his day off but was there because he had helped prepare for the module docking. Gregory Whitney was due to attend a meeting after docking so he took over as the lead. He thought it would be easy sailing from there. Soon, however, a warning light appeared.
Scoville stated, "We had two messages just two codes saying that something was wrong."
He initially thought the message might be a mistake but soon realized it wasn't. Nauka was not firing its thrusters and was actually trying to pull away from the space station it had just docked with. He was quickly informed that the module could not receive commands directly from Russia's ground stations, and the space station would not pass it over for more than an hour.
Related: International Space Station at 20, A photo tour
Scoville stated that the station achieved a maximum rotation speed of 0.56 degrees per sec. Scoville, as well as NASA officials, stated that the station reached a rotation rate of 0.56 degrees per second, but it wasn't fast enough to feel the effect.
Together with ground teams, the crew counteracted Nauka’s thrusters by firing thrusters on the Progress cargo ship and Russian module Zvezda. Scoville stated that Nauka's thrusters stopped firing 15 minutes after they started to fire. However, he did not know why.
This combination of events and counteractive actions allowed the team to stop the station from moving and get it back to its original position.
Scoville explained to the New York Times that after performing the back flip one-and a half times, the machine stopped and then turned the other direction.
Scoville stated that "probably the intensity goes up slightly". Both the astronauts and the teams on the ground worked quickly to rectify the situation. He said, "But, there's a pervasive type of calmness in people not panicking, and just looking at data, figuring out the problem, and trying to solve it from there."
Scoville breathed a sigh relief on Twitter after a difficult day.
"Yehaw! That. It. A. He exclaimed, "Day!"
Yeehaw! That. It. A. Day.July 29, 2020 See more
Scoville tweeted that he was "so happy to see all the solar arrays + radiators still attached" on Thursday.
Scoville stated to the New York Times, despite the unanticipated scare caused by the module accident last week, that he was confident in the partnership between Russia and the U.S. onboard the station.
He said, "I have complete faith in the Russians." "They have a wonderful partnership with NASA and the entire International Space Station Program."
Nauka's accidental thruster firing occurred one day before the scheduled launch date of Boeing's uncrewed test flights for its Starliner astronaut-taxi, which was built with NASA's Commercial Crew Program support.
NASA and Boeing decided that Starliner's launch was postponed to Tuesday, August 3. This was to ensure that Nauka and the station were in a stable state before trying to dock another vehicle to the station. at 1:120 p.m. ET (1720 GMT).
Chelsea Gohd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @Spacedotcom