Cargo spacecraft set to conduct leak checks on troublesome Nauka module

The Russian cargo ship “Progress 78” relocated to the Nauka module this Friday. There the spacecraft will allow the crew to conduct tests on the brand new module.

Starting at 7:42 p.m. EDT on October 21, the Progress 78 cargo ship began undocking from its position on the Poisk mini-research module.  Roughly 28 hours later, Progress 78 docked to the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module. Over its long retreat, the cargo module kept itself in a “station keeping” position roughly 120 miles away.  Relocating the spacecraft will allow astronauts to conduct leak checks on the Nauka module, which famously knocked the space station out of orientation back in July.

The Progress 78 cargo ship launched near the end of June and made its way to the ISS over a two-day period.  The spacecraft brought over 3,600 pounds of supplies for the Expedition 65 crew.  Expedition 65 was a long-duration space mission that consisted of seven astronauts researching “biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences, and technology development providing the foundation for continuing human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars,” according to NASA. With the undocking of Soyuz MS-18, Expedition 65 ended, and Expedition 66 began, beginning another six months of research.

Progress 78 is seen approaching the ISS (Credit: NASA)

During Expedition 65, the long-awaited Nauka module arrived at the ISS, not without issues.  A few hours after docking, Nauka began unexpectedly firing its thrusters, which caused the ISS to lose altitude control, ultimately shifting 540 degrees off-axis. Eventually, the thruster firings stopped, and the space station regained its original orientation.  Progress 78 will check Nauka’s propellant lines to ensure they are safe to use with the cargo ship’s thrusters for space station control.

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