NASA has delayed Boeing's spaceship flight after a Russian module pushed the space station out of position
NASAis delaying a test flight of Boeing's Starliner spaceship after a major space-station mishap.
- A new Russian module, Nauka, fired its engines unexpectedly and rotated the space station on Thursday.
- Boeing has to fly Starliner to the station and back before it can launch astronauts for NASA.
A major mishap on the
Boeing was set to launch its spacecraft, called Starliner, toward the ISS on Friday afternoon and dock there on Saturday. This mission is meant to be Starliner's last test flight before carrying its first astronauts. Boeing attempted this demonstration flight once before, in December 2019, but failed to reach the ISS due to software issues. Now the company is trying again, hoping to prove to NASA that Starliner is ready to fly astronauts.
But Boeing will have to wait just a little longer.
NASA announced on Thursday afternoon that it had decided to delay Boeing's Starliner launch. The next opportunity to launch is on Tuesday, August 3.
"We wanted to make sure we had some breathing room to fully assess the situation on station before adding another vehicle," Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA's human-spaceflight directorate, said in a press briefing on Thursday.
Boeing is one of two companies - SpaceX is the other - that NASA has funded to develop human-spaceflight systems. Both NASA and Boeing are determined to finish Starliner's test flights and start using the spaceship to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.
Before SpaceX's Crew Dragon completed its test flights last year, NASA could only use Russian Soyuz spacecraft to fly its astronauts. Starliner's next flight is critical to giving the agency more options.
Nauka encountered technical issues on the ground and in space
Russia originally planned to add Nauka to the ISS in 2007, but technical issues delayed its development on the ground. Nauka finally launched on July 21, but it immediately encountered technical problems. It didn't complete the first engine burn that was supposed to push it into a higher orbit above Earth, so Russian flight controllers had to initiate several smaller burns to push it onto the right path.
But three hours later, at about 12:34 p.m. ET, Nauka suddenly began firing its engines. It took flight controllers about an hour to get the ISS back under control, after playing "tug of war" by firing engines on another part of the station.
The thrusters rotated the ISS by 45 degrees before NASA and Russian flight controllers regained control.
"It's safe to say the remainder of the day is no longer going to happen as scheduled, of course," a flight controller told the ISS astronauts.
NASA says the astronauts on the ISS were never in danger.
Currently there are two cosmonauts, Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, and five astronauts aboard the station: Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency, and Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, and Mark Vande Hei of NASA.
Aylin Woodward contributed reporting.
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