The Russian Nauka laboratory module is en route to the International Space Station (ISS). Named Nauka (science), it is intended to provide more space for scientific experiments and the crew. The Proton-M rocket carrying the module successfully took off at 19:58 local time (14:58 GMT) from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.
20-ton module is set to automatically dock with the ISS on July 29th. The launch, also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), was repeatedly delayed due to numerous technical issues. The initial launch was planned for 2007, but Roscosmos postponed it for three years. In 2013, after years of waiting, there was a setback as the model was deemed too outdated for launch. The main concern for experts was the power lines, with engineers discovering iron filings contamination in the pipes, leading to a complete replacement of the system.
The situation worsened in 2015, with thoughts even turning to the demolition of Nauka, given the numerous problems encountered over the years and costly interventions required to resolve them. But significant sums of rubles were invested, as Nauka russian module is necessary to give meaning to Russia’s scientific program on the ISS.
Next steps for Nauka
Before Nauka can dock with the station, one of Russia’s older modules, the Pirs compartment for spacewalks, will have to be removed and demolished to free up space. Russian engineers plan to carry out this maneuver after verifying that Nauka’s systems are functioning correctly.
Russian crew members on the station have already carried out two spacewalks (EVA) to connect cables in preparation for Nauka’s arrival. Once the module is connected to the ISS, a long series of procedures, including 11 potential spacewalks, will be required. This work will begin in early September to prepare Nauka for full operation.