The day had been a success. On July 29, 2021, after an eight-day trip to space and almost fifteen years behind schedule, the Russian scientific module Nauka successfully docked to the International Space Station.
However, celebrations were short-lived. About two hours after docking, Nauka inadvertently fired its thrusters, causing the entire station to move 45 degrees out of position. The SpaceX Dragon freighter was put on standby in case the crew had to evacuate. Fortunately, astronauts turned on the thrusters of the Russian segment of the ISS to compensate and managed to readjust the attitude of the station. More fear than harm.
The new space laboratory will replace the much smaller Pirs module, which was detached from the station on July 26, 2021, and burnt down in Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally to the working place, Nauka brings extra crew quarters, a new bathroom, and will increase the station’s capacity to generate oxygen and drinking water. It will also operate the European Robotic Arm. While smaller and not as strong as the current Canadarm 2, the new arm is able to function completely automatically.
As a consequence of the incident, the test launch of the unmanned Boeing Starliner spacecraft to the international station has been postponed while an investigation is carried out. The launch should take place on August 3, 2021, earliest.