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New Russian module unexpectedly fires thrusters after docking at space station

A still frame of a NASA video shows the Russian Nauka module approaching its dock at the International Space Station on Thursday. Photo courtesy of NASA
A still frame of a NASA video shows the Russian Nauka module approaching its dock at the International Space Station on Thursday. Photo courtesy of NASA

ORLANDO, Fla., July 29 (UPI) -- The new Russian Nauka module for the International Space Station unexpectedly fired thrusters after docking Thursday, temporarily knocking the space station out of its normal position, NASA announced.

The problem was corrected quickly, and the people on board the space station are safe, NASA said.

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"We have regained attitude control ... and work is underway to understand better what may have precipitated the inadvertent firing," which began at 12:45 p.m. EDT, a mission control announcer said.

Russian flight controllers worked quickly to send commands to other thrusters on the space station, counterbalancing the Nauka thrusters, according to NASA. Russian operators eventually shut down the thrusters on the 22-ton, 43-foot-long module.

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The space station had been knocked out of its normal attitude by about 45 degrees before the problem was corrected, NASA said.

The problem prompted NASA to postpone Friday's launch of the Boeing Starliner test flight to the space station.

"It just doesn't make a lot of sense to send another vehicle the station's way, while they had this event and so we're working together and figure out what caused this," Steve Stich, NASA manager for the Commercial Crew Program, said during a press conference Thursday.

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By late Thursday afternoon, mission controllers in Moscow had reconfigured the Nauka module to prevent further firing of its thrusters, said NASA's Joel Montalban, program manager for the space station.

"The team operated according to established procedures. It wasn't like we had to come up with procedures or anything. The team knows what to do and how to operate, and that's what they did today," Montalban said in the press conference.

The module had just arrived at the space station Thursday after years of delays and problems on the ground during manufacturing.

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Out-of-this-world images from space

This composite image made from six frames shows the International Space Station, with a crew of seven aboard, in silhouette as it transits the sun at roughly 5 miles per second on April 23, 2021, as seen from Nottingham, Md. Aboard are: NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Mark Vande Hei; Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy, Pyotr Dubrov; and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Joining the crew aboard station the next day were Crew-2 mission crew members: Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

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