The MLM thruster at the centre of the very recent scare at the International Space Station (ISS) has nothing to do with multi-level marketing. Last night, a newly-docked Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) — called Nauka — pushed the ISS out of orientation when its thrusters fired without warning.
NASA says that the crew on board the space station “…was never and is not in any danger”, and for once we believe this particular sort of announcement. The folks on the ground are constantly monitoring the status of the ISS, because it’s space and there are many, many things that could go wrong.
What happened to the MLM thruster?
Congrats to our Russian friends and colleagues! @Space_Station grew today as we welcomed 'Nauka' aboard. This Multi-purpose Laboratory Module will provide a new science facility, docking port, & spacewalk airlock. All have worked hard to ensure this module arrived safely today. pic.twitter.com/TY9KvNZ5ou
— Shane Kimbrough (@astro_kimbrough) July 29, 2021
Both NASA and their Russian counterpart Roscosmos continue to monitor the station from the ground but at the moment it’s not known why the newly-docked laboratory’s thrusters ignited. The situation was easily corrected once the problem was noted — the thruster was shut down and one of the station’s other modules was used to reorient the station.
There has been at least one unpleasant-for-some side effect of the occurrence, however. Boeing’s Starliner capsule was supposed to launch today on an unmanned test flight to the ISS. That launch has been postponed while the Nauka situation is investigated. A revised launch time for Boeing’s test is expected to be confirmed at a later stage, but the closest launch window is 3 August this year.