Russia ditches 20-year-old house station module to clear method for lab’s arrival

A Russian Progress cargo ship undocked from the Worldwide Area Station early Monday, taking with it the two-decades-old Pirs airlock and docking compartment to clear the best way for Thursday’s arrival of Russia’s new Nauka multipurpose lab module.

With the Progress MS-16/77P provide ship firmly locked to Pirs, hooks and latches holding the docking compartment to the Zvezda service module’s Earth-facing port have been commanded open, and the Progress backed away at 6:55 a.m. EDT.

The flight plan referred to as for the Progress to fireplace its thrusters at 10:01 a.m., establishing a harmful plunge into the ambiance 41 minutes later. The braking burn was deliberate to ensure any particles that may survive reentry heating would fall harmlessly into the southern Pacific Ocean.

The Progress MS-16/77S cargo ship backs away from the Worldwide Area Station early on July 26, 2021, pulling the Pirs airlock and docking compartment, lined in white insulation blankets, away from the Zvezda service module. Pirs’ departure clears the best way for the arrival of a brand new Russian multipurpose laboratory module on July 29, 2021.


Undocking initially was deliberate for final Friday, two days after Nauka’s launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, however issues with the lab’s navigation and propulsion techniques prompted Russian flight controllers to delay Pirs’ departure.

Lastly, after a number of anxious days of troubleshooting, Nauka’s propulsion system was restored to regular operation, and two profitable checks of its KURS navigation and rendezvous system have been carried out. Whereas few particulars have been offered, Russian mission managers then cleared Pirs and Progress for departure.

Pirs was launched on September 14, 2001, three days after the 9/11 assaults. It served as a docking port for visiting Soyuz crew ships and Progress freighters for almost 20 years and as an airlock for Russian spacewalks.

The a lot bigger 44,000-pound Nauka module options an airlock and docking port, expanded crew quarters, analysis house, a further rest room, oxygen generator, photo voltaic arrays and a European Area Company-built robotic arm. Nauka’s thrusters additionally will assist present roll management to maintain the station correctly oriented.

With the departure of Pirs, NASA flight controllers deliberate to reposition the station’s Canadian-built robotic arm on the Russian Zarya module so it might perform a seven-hour inspection of the Zvezda module’s now-vacant Earth-facing port. Russian engineers need to be sure that no particles or different points are current that may forestall the docking mechanism from working correctly when Nauka arrives.

The Progress cargo ship, with the Pirs module firmly connected, heads for a fiery re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.


Assuming no issues are discovered, the lab module will full its rendezvous with the house station Thursday, shifting in for docking at Zvezda’s Earth-facing port at 9:24 a.m. It’s going to take as much as 11 Russian spacewalks over about seven months to electrically join and outfit the brand new lab module.

Nauka’s docking will come the day earlier than a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket launches a Boeing CST-100 Starliner crew capsule to the station for an unpiloted take a look at flight. The Atlas 5 rollout to pad 41 on the Cape Canaveral Area Pressure Station is predicted Wednesday, establishing a launch at 2:53 p.m. Friday.

The Starliner, like SpaceX’s already operational Crew Dragon spacecraft, is designed to hold U.S. and partner-agency astronauts to and from the house station on a business foundation, serving to finish NASA’s post-shuttle reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for crew transportation.

An preliminary Starliner take a look at flight in December 2019 had main software program issues, prompting Boeing to launch a second unpiloted take a look at flight earlier than the ship’s first deliberate launch with a crew on board late this 12 months or early subsequent 12 months.

For the take a look at flight, the Starliner will dock on the entrance finish of the station’s ahead Concord module, returning to a White Sands, New Mexico, touchdown on August 5.

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