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Russian Stuff - Yazata - Jul 21, 2021

Today the Russians successfully launched their new years-in-development "nauka" ('science') laboratory module to the International Space Station atop one of their Proton-M expendable heavy lift rockets. This rocket is much bigger than their Soyuz, but not flown nearly as often because it's expensive.

Some Roscosmos video of the launch is here.

An interesting thing to note is the big brown vapor cloud when the engines light up. I believe that this is nitrogen tetroxide hypergolic igniter fluid. Very nasty stuff.

Here's a Roscosmos diagram of what's inside nauka. It's a really big thing to launch into orbit at one go.

When it arrives at the ISS, it will replace the Russians' existing Pir module.

[Image: Screen-Shot-2021-07-21-at-08.28.19.png]

[Image: Screen-Shot-2021-07-21-at-08.28.19.png]

Roscosmos photo of today's launch. (nice towers, but Elon's is way better.)

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[Image: E62GT0wWEAIR056?format=jpg&name=4096x4096]

RE: Russian Stuff - Yazata - Jul 22, 2021

Bad news. Russian space geeks who usually have good inside information are reporting propulsion problems on nauka. Apparently the space station module is in a stable orbit, but the first of several orbit matching maneuvers to enable it to match orbits with the International Space Station has been postponed while they work an issue. At least superficially, this is worryingly similar to the first Boeing Starliner unmanned test flight that made it to orbit courtesy of ULA, but due to botched software proved unable to perform the maneuvers necessary to match orbits with the ISS.

This nauka is a one-off Space Station segment and they don't have a spare one sitting around. So this one has to work, or else it's the better part of ten years work down the drain and billions of Rubles. (I hope that they haven't already jettisoned the older Pir module that they want to replace.)

Russian space geek Anatoly Zak's artists conception of nauka conducting one of the problematic orbit correction burns.

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[Image: E62XT5PWUAEkoY6?format=jpg&name=900x900]

Edit -- Talk in Moscow (unofficial among space enthusiasts with good sources) is that the difficulty is with the Kurs docking system, perhaps (this is unclear) with unfolding and deploying the specialized radar antenna that controls it. Other than that, nauka seems to be healthy, good electrical levels etc.

RE: Russian Stuff - Yazata - Jul 22, 2021

Latest reports are that nauka has received a new software upload and (it isn't clear about this one) a test orbit maneuver burn has been conducted. Tone in Moscow seems to be concern but not panic, they seem to believe that they are on top of the situation, whatever that situation is. It isn't clear whether they are solving the problem or trying to work around it. What little detail there is, is coming from Russian space geeks with Roscosmos connections. Roscosmos isn't saying very much officially and what they do say is kind of cryptic (might be translation issues).

The Russian reads (courtesy of Google Translate): "The test firing of the propulsion system of the # Science module and the orbit formation impulse were worked out in a regular manner." The Russian geeks seem to think "worked out" means 'performed' and not just 'calculated'.

But removal of the existing Pirs module to free up a spot on the International Space Station has been pushed back a day to Saturday July 24. (It should be streamed on nasa-tv if it happens.)

RE: Russian Stuff - Yazata - Jul 23, 2021

Good news! The Russians seem to have resolved whatever their problem was (it was never clear). They have not only conducted the test maneuvering engine fire referred to in the last post, they have also conducted a more substantial orbit matching burn. The remaining burns will come tomorrow. Pirs is still set to be unplugged from the rest of the Space Station on Saturday, so Roscosmos is apparently confident of their ability to get the new module there.

I'm happy! I want this new Russian science laboratory-module to work, it will add a lot of capability to the International Space Station. It's the first brand new Space Station module in at least 10 years. Once it's up and running, everyone can use it for experiments, not just the Russians. (Do Russian modules have that new-car smell?)

RE: Russian Stuff - Yazata - Jul 24, 2021

Space Station and Nauka reaching for each other with their robot arms, straining vainly to touch... from the Daily Hopper with Soyuz and Crew Dragon watching.

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[Image: E7A1AXTWYAQG5Cy?format=jpg&name=large]

RE: Russian Stuff - Yazata - Jul 24, 2021

Bad news again! (At least if the Russian account below is to be believed, and I'm definitely inclined to believe it.) Apparently the problem with Nauka is that its main orbit-maneuvering engines won't fire. While they did do at least two orbit-modification burns, reportedly these were done with much smaller maneuvering thrusters instead of the bigger maneuvering engines. I'd question whether they have enough thruster fuel to effect the necessary orbital changes. So unless they can get the main engines going, I fear that Nauka may be doomed. The account below speaks of one of their sources saying that the main engines have been brought back on line. Roscosmos still isn't saying very much officially.

Whatever the truth with all that, NASA isn't streaming the disconnection of the old Pirs module from the Space Station, something that was due to happen today but apparently isn't.

Translation of the Russian follows:

The orbit of the "Nauka" module has risen after correction by about 20 kilometers

11:53 24 July 2021

The orbit of the Russian module MLM "Science", which flies to the International Space Station, after turning on the engines on Friday, July 23, has grown by about 20 kilometers, according to data from the US military, published on the specialized website Roscosmos confirmed that two corrective maneuvers took place on Friday, but did not report data on the new orbit.

The multifunctional laboratory module "Science" successfully launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome on July 21, but soon after the launch on board the module, according to industry sources, there were problems in the fuel system, which made it impossible to start the main engines. On the evening of July 22, Roskosmos reported that Nauka was able to start the engines , which made it possible to increase the perigee of the orbit from 190 to 224 kilometers. However, by the nature of the operation of the engines, it became clear that the orbit correction was carried out not with the help of the main correction and rendezvous engines (BCS), but with the auxiliary mooring and stabilization engines - DPS (we talked about them in more detail in our blog “What engines did Science include? ).

On Friday evening, a source of N + 1  reported that the problems in the fuel system had been eliminated, and then there was evidence that for the first time it was possible to start the main engines of the booster station . In addition, another correction was made earlier in the day with the help of auxiliary engines. After it, the orbit rose by about a kilometer.
Judging by the data of the American military, the semi-major axis of the MLM orbit has grown by almost 20 kilometers from the night of July 23. At 03:04 Moscow time on Friday, July 23, the perigee of Nauka's orbit was at an altitude of 224.3 kilometers, with an apogee at 347.5 kilometers. At 07:55 on Saturday, July 24, the perigee rose to 238.4 kilometers and the apogee to 370.3 kilometers.

Roskosmos does not provide information on which engines of the module were used to correct the orbit. On Saturday, according to the state corporation, new "impulses for further orbit building" are planned.

You can read about the history of the MLM module in our material "Fatal shavings" , and about how the module was supposed to fly to the ISS - in the material "Seeing the Science" .

Sergey Kuznetsov

RE: Russian Stuff - C C - Jul 24, 2021

(Jul 24, 2021 05:04 PM)Yazata Wrote: Bad news again! (At least if the Russian account below is to be believed, and I'm definitely inclined to believe it.) [...] unless they can get the main engines going, I fear that Nauka may be doomed. [...]

If not for the money/work down the drain and the black-eye reputation to their space expertise, I'd almost feel they were doing it deliberately, a theatrical sham. What with Russia withdraw from ISS in 2025, putting up their own floating laboratory in 2030, the collaboration with Chinese projects ranging from the latter's space station to a moon base, etc.

RE: Russian Stuff - Yazata - Jul 24, 2021

Hopeful news from Dimitry Rogozin, Roscosmos director. He writes (translation by Google translate) "At 17.20.47 and 17.54.20 Moscow time, a two-pulse correction of the MLM "Nauka" orbit was carried out on the correction and rendezvous engine No. 1." That's big news if they indeed do have the bigger 'Correction and Rendezvous' engines working again. There may be hope for old Nauka yet.

I guess that Russian mission control is having a mini Apollo 13 moment. Where all the engineers have to frantically work out solutions on the fly on the back of envelopes. (At least they aren't using slide rules.)

RE: Russian Stuff - Yazata - Jul 24, 2021

Latest talk is that the problem with Nauka is that a valve between the thruster fuel tanks and the maneuvering engine fuel tanks opened when it shouldn't have. The engines are pressure fed and operate at different fuel tank pressures. So when the valve opened incorrectly, that allowed pressure to flow from the high pressure thruster tank into the lower pressure maneuvering engine tank. So the pressure in that main engine tank became too high to properly feed the engines.

That's why they have been conducting multiple orbital maneuvering burns using the smaller thrusters. They've been trying to reduce the pressure in the unfortunately connected tanks to the point the bigger engines will work. And since Rogozin says they did a burn with "correction and rendezvous engine No. 1" it sounds like they have succeeded in doing that.

That's the latest story that I've heard, at any rate.

And in related news, the removal of the Pirs module, originally scheduled for Friday, moved to Saturday, has been moved again to Monday. It should be streamed on NASA-Live.

RE: Russian Stuff - Yazata - Jul 25, 2021

This photo shows the Russian side of the Space Station and where Pirs is currently located. It's a little docking turret thing with a docking port. It's to be replaced by Nauka, a much larger module the size of Zvezda and Zarya. There will still be a twin docking turret on the Russian side, Poisk, opposite Pirs. Reportedly both Pirs and Poisk are also used by the Russians as airlocks for extravehicular activities (EVAs). (Rassvet is larger, has a docking port and is mostly used for storage.) The European, American and Japanese modules are off to the right.

Nauka seems to have recovered its composure, appears to be using its main engines and is making its way to its orbital rendezvous. I hope that all the extra fuel expenditure and lowered pressure in the thruster tanks don't negatively impact its ability to approach and mate with the station.

An interesting fact is that there is a Progress supply capsule attached to Pirs. It's never going to detach from Pirs and instead will use its own thrusters to pull Pirs free. All the electrical cables and attachment fittings have to be disconnected first, which is happening as I write this. Detaching Pirs is scheduled for 6:56 am EDT Monday, 3:56 PDT (too early for me), 10:56 UTC. Then the Progress will use its propulsion to deorbit both Pirs and itself in such a way that they burn up over a remote spot of ocean somewhere. Reentry and burnup should come at 10:51 EDT, 7:51 PDT and 14:51 UTC.

[Image: Russian_Orbital_Segment.png]

[Image: Russian_Orbital_Segment.png]