Nauka (ISS module)

Summary

Nauka
Module statistics
COSPAR ID2021-066A
Part ofInternational Space Station
Launch date21 July 2021, 14:58:25 UTC
Launch vehicleProton-M
Docked29 July 2021, 13:29:01 UTC[1]
Mass
  • 20,357 kg (44,880 lb) in orbit
  • At launch: 23,200 kg (51,100 lb)
  • Dry mass: 20,307 kg (44,769 lb)
Length13.12 m (43.0 ft)
Width~30 m (98 ft)
Diameter4.25 m (13.9 ft)
Pressurised volume
  • 80.9 m3 (2,860 cu ft)
  • Habitable: 70 m3 (2,500 cu ft)
Configuration
Artists Conception of Nauka Module Structure.gif
Diagram of Nauka's forward and aft exterior, with the European Robotic Arm in purple.

Nauka (Russian: Наука, IPA: [nɐˈukə], lit. Science), also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module-Upgrade (MLM-U; Russian: Многоцелевой лабораторный модуль, усоверше́нствованный, or МЛМ-У) or simply Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), is a module of the International Space Station (ISS). The MLM-U is funded by Roscosmos. In the original ISS plans, Nauka was to use the location of the Docking and Storage Module (DSM). Later, the DSM was replaced by the Rassvet module and Nauka was moved from Zarya's nadir port to Zvezda's nadir port.[2][3][4][5]

The launch of Nauka, initially planned for 2007, was repeatedly delayed for various reasons. By May 2020, Nauka was reported to be planned for launch in the second quarter of 2021,[6] after which the manufacturer's warranties of some of Nauka's components, such as engines, would have expired. Nauka was finally launched on 21 July 2021, 14:58 UTC along with the European Robotic Arm, and successfully docked on 29 July 2021, 13:29 UTC to Zvezda's nadir port, making the first major expansion of the Russian ISS segment for over 20 years. After Nauka docked, it began firing its engine thrusters in error, causing the entire space station to make one and a half full rotations before the module ran out of fuel, enabling ground controllers to stop the rotation and the crew to get it back to its original position an hour later.[7][8] According to NASA, the ISS crew was never in danger.[9][10][7][11]

Description

Nauka is the primary laboratory of the Russian Orbital Segment, operating in conjunction with the Mini-Research Modules Rassvet and Poisk. The module is used to conduct experiments and store scientific instruments, and can also serve as a backup service module for the ISS.[2][12][13] Nauka is based on the Functional Cargo Block (FGB) design. The module is 13.12 m (43.0 ft) long and 4.25 m (13.9 ft) wide, and is made of stainless steel, aluminium alloy, kevlar and ceramic-wool insulation, totalling a mass of 20,350 kg (44,860 lb).[14] Nauka has two SSVP-M docking ports; the passive nadir port will be used to attach Prichal to the station, while the active zenith port is used to attach Nauka itself to the station via Zvezda's nadir port. SSVP-M is a hybrid variant of the SSVP docking system that combines its traditional probe‑and‑drogue soft-capture mechanism with the APAS-95 hard-docking collar. While this is incompatible with Soyuz and Progress' standard SSVP ports, a temporary docking adapter that converts Nauka's nadir port from SSVP-M to SSVP is installed to allow them to dock. This adapter will be removed upon the arrival of Prichal, which will then expand the number of available docking ports on the Russian Orbital Segment to eight.[15] Full guidance and navigation control, enabled by an attitude control system using MDDK thrusters, provide roll control to the station using its advantageous position far from the station's fore-aft axis, which provides the greatest mechanical advantage for roll corrections of all the station's thruster-equipped modules. Nauka is also able to collect and store propellant delivered by Progress spacecraft and transfer it to Zvezda.[16][17][18]

The European Space Agency's (ESA) European Robotic Arm located on Nauka's exterior enables the installation, removal or replacement of external experiment payloads, transfer of payloads through the science airlock, visual inspections of the station, and can support spacewalks by providing foot restraints, tether points, and a control panel both on the inside and outside of the station. Inside Nauka, the module contains life support equipment including an oxygen production system capable of supporting six crew, a galley, a toilet with a urine recycling system, and one of the three sleep stations aboard the Russian Orbital Segment.[19][20][21] A large observation window for the crew is also present on the after side of docking sphere, towards the module's nadir port.[22]

Development

A Russian Research Module docked to Zvezda (left) and MLM docked to Zarya (right) in an early 2000s concept.

In the 1990s, Roscosmos' original plan for the Russian Orbital Segment included two Russian Research Modules, and a Universal Docking Module based on the FGB design, to be located at Zvezda's nadir port. A backup flight article for FGB-based Zarya, known in production as FGB-2, was originally planned to serve as the Universal Docking Module, though its construction had been halted at 70% completion in the late 1990s.[12] By August 2004, Roscosmos decided to scrap the two research modules in favour of flying FGB-2 as a single research module known as Nauka. A joint Astrotech-Energia concept for a Commercial Enterprise Module-based Nauka, proposed to Roscosmos around this time, was rejected.[23] In 2005, Roscosmos brokered a deal with ESA to launch their European Robotic Arm with Nauka, with its spare elbow joint to launch with Rassvet.[24]

While Roscosmos had originally hoped Nauka would be ready for launch by 2007, multiple delays pushed the prospective launch date back progressively to 2014.[19][25][26] Acceptance tests of Nauka in late 2013 found leaks in the propulsion system's fueling valve and contamination,[27] leading to Energia returning the module to Khrunichev for repairs lasting between twelve and eighteen months.[28] Nauka's prospective 2015 launch was then delayed again, after more fuel valve leaks damaged the module's exterior plumbing, necessitating its replacement.[27][29][30] Metallic dust contamination in the module's fuel tanks in 2017 caused three more years of delays, as initial repairs were unsuccessful,[31][32][33] and the installation of a new single-use fuel system based on the Fregat upper stage was considered as a solution.[30][34] However, in late 2019, the original tanks were successfully repaired, rendering the planned Fregat-based tanks redundant and paving the way for a 2019 or 2020 launch.[35]

Nauka undergoing tests at Khrunichev in July 2020, a month before it was shipped to Baikonur.

Targeting an early-to-mid-2020 launch, the module's Proton-M launch vehicle was assembled and shipped to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in February.[36] However, Nauka needed another fuel tank valve replacement, along with further tests necessitated by an expiring warranty following years of delays. The testing – which could only take place at Energia in Russia instead of Kazakhstan, where Baikonur is located – was completed in May, around the same time the new fuel tank valves were shipped to Baikonur.[37][38] Efforts to launch the module were then deeply affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe in early 2020, which led to suspensions of all work in March, April, and July, and a sizeable reduction in workforce throughout the year, as part of measures to prevent the potential spread of the disease.[39] Nauka finally arrived in Baikonur in August, along with its solar panels and the European Robotic Arm shortly afterwards.[12][40] The loading of cargo and supplies onto Nauka began on 11 September, while its MMOD armor and batteries were installed.[41][42] Throughout October and November, Expedition 65 cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitsky, who were to be responsible for Nauka's installation to the station in orbit via numerous extravehicular activities, conducted two Crew Equipment Interface Tests during which the module was powered on for the first time with various components deployed, and the cosmonauts inspected and toured the vehicle's exterior.[43]

By November 2020, Nauka had been put through 306 of the 754 tests needed before it could be processed for launch,[44][45] and by January 2021 was 80% complete.[46][47] Throughout January and February, Nauka's tanks, thrusters, and automated docking system underwent final testing, along with the European Robotic Arm.[46][47][48] In March, two more Crew Equipment Interface Tests with Dubrov and Novitsky took place,[49][50] and Nauka's launch was delayed one final time from May to July 2021, following further COVID-19-related restrictions and complications with traffic on the International Space Station.[51][52][53] In May, Nauka passed Roscosmos' flight readiness review,[54][55] underwent a final round of pressurization and leak tests, and the SSVP docking adapter, the solar panels, and the European Robotic Arm were finally attached to the module's exterior.[56][57] One final Crew Equipment Interface Test was conducted with Expedition 66 cosmonaut Aleksandr Skvortsov and his backup Sergey Prokopyev, before the module's encapsulation in the Proton-M's payload fairing in June.[58] On 28 June, Nauka was successfully mated with its Proton-M launch vehicle and rolled out to Site 200 on 17 July.[59][60][61]

Launch

The rollout of Proton-M rocket with MLM-U Nauka

On 2 May 2021, the launch schedule was posted online which involved the launch of Progress MS-17 on 30 June 2021 to deliver outfitting hardware to the station and plugs to fix the leak in the Zvezda service module. Before it docked, Novitsky and Dubrov performed a spacewalk to remove equipment and cables from Pirs in preparation for undocking.[62] Site 200, from which Nauka and its Proton-M were to launch, were modified to supply chilled air and fuel the vehicle as it sat on the pad; the same modifications were made to Site 81 when Mir, Zarya, and Zvezda were launched from it.[63] On 7 June 2021, work at Site 200 was completed in preparation for the assembly of the launch vehicle and the rollout of Nauka to Pad 39 at the facility.[64]

On 30 June 2021, fueling began but a problem with the spacecraft's guidance sensors was detected and Nauka was rolled back to the instrumentation and test facility at Site 254. The upper fairing was removed and rolled away while workers using safety harnesses changed and replaced the sensors and reinstalled the MLI. On 1 July 2021, more imperfections were found requiring a full scrub down and systems had to be removed and replaced.[65] On 3 July 2021, the fairing was reattached and the module was powered on to test the sensors before Nauka was reloaded onto the transfer car and redelivered to the airlock where it was placed on a flatcar for delivery to Site 31 for fueling.

On 9 July 2021, ILS completed stacking of the Proton rocket at Site 200 and all three of the lower stages are fueled and standing by for the arrival of Nauka. Because of delays with rewrapping the sensors, rollout was scheduled for 17 July 2021 with launch on the 21st.[66] Also on 9 July 2021, teams from ILS, Khrunichev, Roscosmos, Energia, and Yuzhny Space Center conducted a dry countdown to test the new computers and systems at Site 200 which will control Nauka and feed it and the Proton rocket telemetry through the first 12 minutes of flight up until first stage separation and fairing jettison, where telemetry would be controlled from ground stations and from Mission Control Moscow.[67] On 10 July 2021, Nauka was fueled and the aft compartment was closed out in preparation for the transfer to Site 200 to be attached to the Proton rocket.[68] Launch was scheduled for 21 July 2021 at 14:58 UTC (17:58 Moscow time).[69]

On 13 July 2021, the Russian astronauts, Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov carried out work on the Pirs module, splitting up the hydraulic circuit and module control communications via the Progress spacecraft, as well as checked the docking unit and its systems. Thus in this process they closed the Pirs module hatch that is connected to the Zvezda service module, after which Pirs was ultimately undocked on 23 July 2021.[70][71] Also on 13 July 2021, Roscosmos revealed the mission patch for Nauka which was in the process of being painted on the fairing and on the Proton launch vehicle itself. A smaller mission patch was flown inside, attached to the wall with Velcro.[72] On 14 July 2021, Roscosmos revealed the website for the module and began the countdown for launch. A spacewalk is to be performed on 8 September 2021 by Novitsky and Dubrov to remove thermal shrouds for the ERA and the hardware launched on Rassvet including Nauka's docking ball and the transfer compartment. This will free up ports for the Science airlock and the radiator and will allow the ERA to retrieve its boom which is stowed on the Rassvet module. When Nauka arrives, the ERA's first task after the Russian spacewalk is to grapple the airlock and the radiator and install them, with Novitsky and Dubrov bolting them down and routing cables and piping in preparation for their deployment at the end of the spacewalk.[73] On the same day, the Proton-M rocket received the Nauka module at Site 92. Rollout was slated for 17 July.[74][75][76][77][78][79]

In the early morning hours of 17 July 2021, Nauka was loaded onto a rail transporter erector and was rolled out to Pad 39 at Site 200. Over the next few days the module was checked out before its launch on the 21 July 2021 at 14:58 UTC.[80] On 19 July 2021, a launch dress rehearsal was conducted to test the systems. With 48 hours remaining in the launch window everything remained go for an on time liftoff at 14:58 UTC on 21 July 2021. On the station, Pirs was loaded with garbage and the hatch was closed and locked for the last time in preparation for undocking.[81] On 20 July 2021, Nauka had its final launch dress rehearsal. During the dress rehearsal, the module was powered on and the Proton flight computer was activated to test the ground launch sequencer. While this was going on, technicians from Roscosmos and ILS connected the umbilical cables and fueling and vent lines to the rocket. After the Launch Readiness Review (LRR) in which Rogozin sat down with senior staff to conduct the go/no-go poll, the Proton was fueled and the countdown proceeded to launch. Nauka successfully lifted off from the pad on 21 July 2021 at 14:58:25 UTC.[82][83]

Transit phase and docking

Nauka (blue) approaching ISS (red) while the Proton upper stage (green) decays.
Zvezda nadir port, the docking location of Nauka Module

Several problems occurred after the launch, including loss of telemetry and issues with the main propulsion system.[84] The initial orbiting maneuver was delayed by 24 hours.[85] On 22 July 2021, the Nauka Multipurpose Module Flight Control Group specialists at Mission Control Moscow conducted two correction maneuvers of the module that had launched to the International Space Station the previous day. The first maneuver took place at 15:07 UTC with the module engines burn for 17.23 seconds giving an impulse of 1 m/s. The second burn for 250.04 seconds took place at 17:19 UTC with an impulse of 14.59 m/s. By then, the telemetry confirmed the module propulsion unit's operability.

Additional burns for further orbit correction were scheduled for 23 July 2021.[86] On 23 July 2021, Nauka conducted the third and fourth burn in its approach. Because of the burn duration and Nauka's location in orbit two more burns seemed needed to get it back into plane. Because of this the undocking of Pirs was pushed back by 12 hours with the new undocking time scheduled for 25 July 2021.[87][88]

By mid-day 24 July 2021, the issues with Nauka propulsion had further postponed the schedule for undocking of the Pirs module by another day, to 26 July 2021, 10:55 UTC and deorbiting the same day at 14:51 UTC, that was done successfully.[89] At 10:55 UTC on 26 July 2021, Pirs undocked from the ISS for the last time. Roscosmos sent the deorbit command and Pirs entered the atmosphere over the Pacific at 14:01 UTC in a 17 minute burn. Self-destruct came afterwards at 15:04 UTC and the module and the trash that was inside it burned up as it entered the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean, the first ISS module to be decommissioned and destroyed.[90][91]

Hours after undocking, Canadarm2 grappled Zarya and performed an inspection of Zvezda. No debris was detected and the latches were safely retracted. No additional spacewalk was needed and the space station was ready to receive Nauka on 29 July 2021.[92]

On 27 July 2021, specialists of the flight control group of the Nauka module at the Mission Control Center routinely carried out a corrective maneuver of the module.[93][94] The final orbit correction to put Nauka on a rendezvous path with ISS was performed on 28 July 2021 at 16:43:07 UTC with a single firing of the main engines.[95][96]

On 29 July 2021, upon arrival at the station Nauka successfully automatically docked and was attached to the station at 13:29 UTC, and will now be put to work on the station by the crew.[97][98]

Post-docking thruster glitches

Nauka approaching its docking port.

A few hours after docking while the crew were performing leak checks in preparation for hatch opening, the module's onboard computers experienced a software glitch due to which a direct command was mistakenly implemented that fired onboard thrusters in the Nauka module, causing the ISS to rotate out of orientation unexpectedly. NASA and Roscosmos ground controllers worked to remotely fix the glitch issue, while at the same time instructing the crew to close all window shutters and stand-by for computer reboot. Controllers initially attempted to counteract the inadvertent thrust through the use of thrusters on the Zvezda service module, a job later transferred to the Progress MS-17 vehicle. The station made one and a half complete rotations over the next 44 minutes, after which Nauka burned through its remaining fuel and Mission Control Moscow disabled the engines.[7][8] The Nauka module's control system was transferred from flight mode to "docked with the ISS" mode, and thrust control was returned to Progress MS-17 and Zvezda, allowing attitude control of the station to be regained.[10] Because of the glitch all activities were temporarily scrubbed and the launch of Boeing Orbital Flight Test 2 was delayed 96 hours while the crew continued checkouts of Nauka.[99] On 3 August 2021, it was decided to use Zvezda's engines to correct the station's orbit parameters for the relocation of Soyuz MS-18 and the launch of Soyuz MS-19. The burn was originally planned for 19 August 2021, but was instead executed on 21 August 2021 and lasted for 50 seconds.[100][101]

Integrating Nauka into the ISS

Nauka docking sequence to the International Space Station's docking port

Work resumed on 30 July 2021 to outfit Nauka and tie its computers into the ISS. Novitsky and Dubrov performed leak checks before they started opening hatches between the modules. Once the hatch was opened, cables will be connected and laptops will be set up and connected to the station's routers. After this is done, the cosmonauts connected the plumbing and the waste and fuel lines to the station and disabled Nauka's engines to prevent them from firing until they are connected to the station's computers. They will also set up sleeping quarters for the crew that arrives soon, and will activate experiments and turn on environmental control to cool the module down until the primary radiator is extracted from Rassvet in September 2021.[102] Because of the incident, Mission Control Moscow ordered Zvezda to be evacuated while commands were sent to purge the fuel lines with helium and to make sure there are no leaks of the toxic hypergolic fuel on the Russian Segment. The international partners have formed a commission which Bill Nelson of NASA will chair. Members of this panel will include prime contractor Boeing, JAXA and their prime contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, ESA and their prime contractors Thales Alenia Space and Dutch Space, Roscosmos, and contractors from Energia.[103] At 17:47 UTC, the hatches were opened and Novitsky and Dubrov entered Nauka and made their way into the workshop. The first task they did when the hatch was open was install ventilation lines from the U.S. and Russian segments to vent out any stale air that was trapped in there since launch on 17 July. Next, they activated alarms and smoke detectors and installed gas monitors to check for traces of UDMH and N2O4 following venting the day before. They finished the day by removing unneeded hardware and launch restraints and transferring them to Progress MS-17 for disposal.[104] Later that day the commissions delivered their final report and the chief engineer identified the root cause of the glitch to be a direct command sent to Nauka from the ground before the Kurs and TORU systems were deactivated, leading to the thruster firings.[105]

Vehicles visiting the ISS at the time of Nauka's docking

On 2 August 2021, Novitsky and Dubrov began their week by dismantling hardware that came up in Nauka and disposed of unneeded trash. They also started installing racks and began work on assembling the station's toilet, and assembled the environmental control systems. They finished the day by cleaning their spacesuits and doing maintenance on the suits' environmental systems in preparation for an upcoming spacewalk. Over the next few days, they will unload all the cargo and empty the corridor so the cosmonauts can get inside the nadir end.[106]

Future work on Nauka

A total of up to 11 spacewalks will be required in order to fully outfit and commission Nauka, with the first of these set to be performed in September 2021. Along with this, the Progress MS-17 cargo freighter will assist the crew in many of these operations, including providing equipment, and undocking the module's temporary nadir port docking adapter.

Bringing the ERA to functionality

Externally, after the module has been connected to the ISS via a series of cables, the first order of business will be to deploy the European Robotic Arm (ERA), which launched attached to the outside of Nauka. The first spacewalk will also involve removing external covers and launch restraints, following which the ERA will be activated and fully checked out from the ground. ERA needs to be fully operational in order to proceed with the next phase of operations – which is transferring MLM outfittings to Nauka.

Installation of outfitting equipment

MLM outfitting equipment consisting of the MLM Experiment Airlock, MLM radiators and ERA workpost on the Rassvet module as seen from the cupola. Nauka is currently docked in place of Pirs, which can be seen in the background.
A wide-angle view of the new module (behind Rassvet) attached to the ROS as seen from the cupola.

In May 2010, outfitting equipment for Nauka was launched, attached to the outside of Rassvet (Mini-Research Module 1) on STS-132 (as part of an agreement with NASA) and delivered by Space Shuttle Atlantis. The equipment weighing a total 1.4 metric tons includes a spare elbow joint for the European Robotic Arm (ERA) (launched with Nauka) and an ERA portable workpost used during EVAs, a heat exchanger, radiators, internal hardware and an experiment airlock for launching cubesats, to be positioned on the modified passive forward port near the nadir end of the module.[77]

Nauka modified passive forward port for Experimental Airlock after the docking of Nauka to the International Space Station

The deployable radiator will be used to add additional cooling capability to Nauka, which will enable the module to host more scientific experiments. The airlock will be used only to pass experiments inside and outside the module, with the aid of ERA — very similar to the Japanese airlock and Nanoracks Bishop Airlock on the U.S. segment of the station.[77]

The ERA will be used to remove the radiator and airlock from Rassvet and transfer them over to Nauka – with an extension boom and spare elbow joint being required to allow ERA to reach the airlock. This process is expected to take several months. A portable work platform will also be transferred over, which can attach to the end of the ERA to allow cosmonauts to "ride" on the end of the arm during spacewalks.[107]

Integrating Prichal with Nauka

Roscosmos plans to launch the Prichal Node Module in November 2021. The module, expected to outlive the ISS together with Nauka as part of the planned Russian Orbital Service Station, will increase the number of available docking ports on the Russian Orbital Segment by four. As Nauka was designed to be permanently docked to Prichal, its nadir docking port is of the SSVP-M or "Hybrid" standard, which consists of the traditional SSVP probe‑and‑drogue soft-dock mechanism and an APAS-95 hard-dock collar. This would make the docking port unusable for Soyuz or Progress flights in case Prichal failed to arrive at the station, because these spacecraft use a slightly different SSVP standard. To ensure the availability of four ports on the segment, Nauka was launched with an APAS-to-SSVP adapter ring.

On 24 November 2021, Progress MS-17 will undock from Nauka, taking with it the adapter ring, and will later be deorbited together and burn up on reentry over the South Pacific Ocean. After this, the final visiting spacecraft, Progress M-UM, a modified Progress spacecraft consisting of the usual fuel compartment and propulsion module and Prichal in place of the forward pressurized module, will dock the module to the now exposed SSVP-M port. A spacewalk will be performed to detach the Progress service module from Prichal and deorbit the tug.[15]

Dockings

Vehicle Mission Docking Undocking
Forward port
Nauka experimental airlock N/A 2021 (planned) N/A
Nadir port
Soyuz MS Yu.A. Gagarin Soyuz MS-18 28 September 2021 (planned) 17 October 2021 (planned)
Progress MS no. 446 Progress MS-17 27 October 2021 (planned) 24 November 2021 (planned)
Prichal Progress M-UM November 2021 (planned) N/A
Zenith port
Zvezda N/A 29 July 2021 N/A

See also

References

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External links

  • Description of MLM at Khrunichev.ru
  • Photos of the incomplete FGB-2 at Khrunichev.ru (in Russian)
  • MLM on Roskosmos official page (in Russian)
  • Новости российского сегмента МКС (in Russian) – November 2004 article discussing plans for MLM
  • MLM (FGB-2) module of the ISS – RussianSpaceWeb.com on the history of the module
  • MLM (Nauka) – from Gunter's Space Page