A Russian Spacecraft Pushed the ISS Out of Position, Again

Marking the second time the station tilts within two months.
Fabienne Lang

For just under 30 minutes on October 15, the International Space Station (ISS) lost attitude control. The incident was caused by a thruster firing test on the Russian Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft, which "unexpectedly continued after the end of the test window," as NASA's blog entry explains.

"During the Soyuz MS-18 engines testing, the station’s orientation was impacted. As a result, the International Space Station orientation was temporarily changed," Russia's space agency, Rocosmos, wrote in a statement on the matter.

Around 5:13 AM EST on that day, the renowned ISS lost attitude control, and emergency protocols were initiated by the astronauts aboard the station. Russian controllers on the ground speedily responded to the incident by informing Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy, who was conducting the test on the ISS, reported the New York Times.

After the quick response, Roscosmos said that flight controllers regained attitude control of the station and "the station and the crew are in no danger."

No set answers yet

As NASA explained, "Flight controllers are continuing to evaluate data on the station’s brief attitude change due to the thruster firing. NASA and Roscosmos are collaborating to understand the root cause."

The Soyuz spacecraft in question is the one that safely brought the Russian film crew back to Earth on October 17. Russian actor Yulia Peresild and film director Klim Shipenko returned from space alongside Novitskiy, marking the first time a movie has been shot in space — a feat U.S. filmmakers are trying to accomplish, too. 

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Friday's thruster issue marks the second time such an incident takes place on the ISS and all within a two-month framework. Back in July, the docked Russian Nauka module began firing its thrusters uncontrolled, causing the ISS to turn 45 degrees out of attitude. Luckily, no one was hurt then either. 

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