The Nauka Space Module from Russia gave the International Space Station a scare on Thursday when its engines lighted up strangely just hours after docking in orbit. According to NASA, the “unplanned restart” of the module’s engines unexpectedly shifted the entire ISS out of position for 47 minutes. Mission Control in Houston announced during a Livestream of the event that NASA had momentarily lost orientation control due to unintentional thrust firings and that the error had thrown the station off by approximately 45 degrees.
Mission Control and the crew onboard the station later tweeted that the orientation had been adjusted and that all systems were functioning correctly. However, the International Space Station (ISS) must be orientated precisely to work correctly for its solar panels and radio equipment. The station lost touch with ground control twice during the event. “The crew was never in any danger,” NASA later stated on Twitter.
Authorities did not have a quick explanation for why the engines started running. Still, they said flight controllers dealt with the problem by deploying thrusters on other Russian station components to oppose the renegade engines. According to the European Space Agency, the Nauka mission was delayed for a decade due to various challenges. It experienced many “hiccups in orbit” and engine trouble on its way to rendezvous with the International Space Station.It was supposed to be completed in 2007. However, experts discovered pollution in the fuel system in 2013, necessitating a lengthy and pricey overhaul. Other Nauka systems were also modernized or repaired.