Starliner Will try Again on August 3 After ISS “Emergency”

The planned launch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) has been pushed back to Tuesday, August 3 after a mishap involving a newly docked Russian module. Originally, Starliner’s flight was to take place today, July 30, 2021 but NASA and Boeing officials agreed to delay the flight following a “spacecraft emergency” on the space station after inadvertent thruster firings on the new Nauka module caused a loss of attitude control on the ISS.

The Nauka module’s thrusters started firing at 12:45pm ET on Thursday, July 29 “inadvertently and unexpectedly,” NASA said, moving the station 45 degrees out of attitude. After 47 minutes, recovery operations on both the ISS and the ground regained attitude. NASA said the seven-member crew on the space station was in no danger.

However, things must have been nail-biting enough for NASA ISS flight director Zebulon Scoville to tweet, “Never have I ever … been so happy to see all solar arrays + radiators still attached.”

In a statement released by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Vladimir Solovyov, flight director of the space station’s Russian segment, blamed the incident on a “short-term software failure”, where a direct command to turn on the lab’s engines was mistakenly implemented.

Attitude control was quickly “countered by the propulsion system” of the Russian Zvezda module, where Nauka was attached. Additionally, thrusters in a Progress cargo ship docked on the other side of Zvezda fired to help right the ship.

Artist concept of the Nauka module. Via NASA.

During the loss of attitude control, communications blipped out for a few minutes, since the ISS’s position is important for communications, as well as for getting power from solar panels. Both NASA and Roscosmos say the station is now back to its normal orientation and all systems are operating normally.

“We haven’t noticed any damage to the ISS,” said Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA’s space station program, during a teleconference after the incident. “One of the things we do after a dynamic event like this is go ahead and sit down with our structural loads team and review all the data, go pull all the telemetry and do an assessment. And so that’ll be the next step.”

The incident prompted NASA to postpone a repeat test flight for Starliner that had been scheduled for today. The launch of the Starliner—a reusable crew transport capsule  — now has its earliest available launch opportunity on August 3 at 1:20 p.m. EDT, with an immediate backup window set for August 4. This will be Boeing’s second attempt to reach the 400-kilomter-high (250-mile high) station before putting astronauts on board. Software problems spoiled the first test.

Russia’s long-delayed 22-ton (20-metric-ton) science lab Nauka arrived eight days after it launched from the Russian launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Nauka is the first new compartment for the Russian segment of the ISS since 2010. On Monday, the Pirs docking compartment was undocked and deorbited from the station to free up room for the new lab.

You can find the latest updates on the ISS and Starliner situation on the NASA ISS Blog.

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Nancy_A and and Instagram at and https://www.instagram.com/nancyatkinson_ut/

Recent Posts

Earth-Sized Planet Found At One of the Lightest Red Dwarfs

Astronomers have found another Earth-sized planet. It's about 31 light-years away and orbits in the…

1 hour ago

Hubble’s New View of the Tarantula Nebula

The Tarantula Nebula, also called 30 Doradus, is the brightest star-forming region in our part…

7 hours ago

Face-on View of Galaxy NGC 4303 Reveals its Arms are Filled with Active Star Formation

Galaxies fill a lot of roles in the universe. The most obvious one is star…

8 hours ago

JWST Unexpectedly Finds a Small Asteroid During ‘Failed’ Observations

While astronomers and engineers were trying to calibrate one of the James Webb Space Telescope’s…

11 hours ago

Rolls-Royce Space Reactor, Close Call in Orbit, Webb’s Back

Webb is fully operational again, Rolls-Royce is building a nuclear reactor for the Moon, and…

1 day ago

A.I. Finds a New Way to Build Multiple-Star Systems

Over over 50% of high mass stars reside in multiple star systems. But due to…

2 days ago