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Russia’s unused addition to the space station: When to watch

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Earlier this year, Russian space officials were talking about withdrawing from the International Space Station in 2025. But that didn’t quit them from sending a unused addition to their part of the outpost. The unit is called the Nauka, and its design and development began more than 20 years ago.

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The unit fills a gap in the Russian part of the station for a capsule intended for scientific experiments, and is seen as critical to the entire Russian programme. It will also provide a variety of other improvements to the Russian section of the station.

Here’s what you need to know about the Nauka module and its arrival to the space station on Thursday.

The unused Russian craft is scheduled to come at the space station on Thursday at approximately 9:25 a.m. ET.

NASA TV will broadcast live coverage at 8:30 a.m. ET. Viewers who want to watch the operation in Russian can tune in to the YouTube page of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

The Nauka was originally created as a backup for another Russian unit, Zarya, and was later reused. Nauka in Russian means science, and its main task: to provide laboratory equipment for experiments.

Furthermore, the unit includes a radiation-isolated cabin with an additional living room for astronauts, a toilet, unused water recirculation and air filtration systems, storage space, and a robotic arm provided by the European Space Agency.

Weighing more than 20 tons and over 42 feet lengthy, the Nauka is set to become one of the largest units on the station. A series of spacewalks will be required to join them to the station’s electrical and command circuits.

Development of the module began in the mid-1990s, prior the station’s first components were aloft and well prior current political tensions with the United States, which raised the prospects of Russia withdrawing from the space station by 2025.

Its launch was repeatedly delayed due to manufacturing defects and lack of funding, which left a gap in the Russian side of the plant. Russia is currently the only major operator that does not have its own laboratory unit.

Equipped with solar panels, the Nauka will make the Russian orbital part less dependent on energy coming from the American side. The additional habitable space, including a bed for one cosmonaut, will allow the expansion of the enduring Russian crew to three members.

The Russian Proton rocket flawlessly delivered the unused unit into orbit, but problems arose almost immediately.

A malfunction in the spacecraft’s engines caused scientists to return to Earth flustered for several days, according to the European Space Agency, whose robotic arm has been attached to the unit. “The ordeal confirms that it is part of the journey,” the agency said in a statement.

While Nauka will eventually catch up to the station, she has flown as an autonomous spacecraft for several days in orbit. The unit deployed its solar panels and antennas but then failed to fire the engines to hoist its orbit, a potential problem that ends the job. The European Space Agency said Russian engineers were competent to correct this, describing the episode as “a hectic few days at the mission control centre”.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has not directly addressed the problems in its updates to the mission, noting in a press release final Thursday only that the unit’s thrusters were already operating. “Telemetry confirmed the operability of the propulsion unit,” Roscosmos said in the statement.


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