An unmanned Soyuz spacecraft carrying supplies and an experimental robot attempted to dock at the International Space Station on Saturday, but the spacecraft, unable to engage in command signals, began to turn far around its long axis and demanded the Russian air traffic controllers to order a plane crash.
In the tense moments before the crash, the cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Station Commander Alexey Ovchinin, watching the approach from the station's aft Zvezda module, lost sight of the spinning Soyuz on their TV monitors.
At this point, the spacecraft was less than 300 feet from the target docking port on the Russian Poisk module. "We make every conceivable attempt to find him visually now." One of the cosmonauts radiated Russian air traffic controllers.
NASA air traffic controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston then beamed out the other four crew members of the station to ensure that they were aware of the apparent malfunction of the Soyuz COURSE rendezvous system. "We just want to tell you that the COURSE is having trouble reaching the goal, and we want to make sure you're awake," called Mission Control. "And you need to open discovery windows as needed."
Moments later, the cosmonauts reported again that they had lost sight of Soyuz and Vladimir Solovyov, the Chief Flight Attendant at the Russian Mission Control Center
"Station, Soyuz is breaking off," confirmed US air traffic controllers for NASA. Astronauts Christina Koch, Drew Morgan, Nick Hague and European Space Agency astronauts Luca Parmitano The Soyuz embarked on an orbit that allowed a second rendezvous attempt within 24 hours, but Russian engineers quickly shut it down.
Based on the telemetry and performance of the Soyuz, the engineers believe that the culprit could have been a faulty booster in the COURSE rendezvous equipment in the space station. The amplifier is part of a system that sends signals to an approaching Soyuz, which are used by the ship's computer to calculate the correct approach path.
A few hours after the missed approach, the Russian space agency Roscosmos issued a statement suggesting the proposal Skvortsov, Morgan and Parmitano should advance into the spacecraft Soyuz MS-13 / 59S, which launched them into orbit last month , Undock from the after port of the Zvezda module and manually dock again at the Poisk module.
All Soyuz The pilots are trained to fly their ships manually, and the suspect COURSE system used in the canceled automated approach to Poisk Harbor is not used.
Assuming that the resettlement is going well, the spacecraft Soyuz MS-14 / 60S would attempt an automated docking at the free port of Zvezda. The proposal requires the approval of all international partners of the station.
"On August 27 (Moscow time), the second automatic docking attempt will take place, with the Soyuz MS-14 docking to the Zvezda module," Roscosmos said in the web posting. "Tomorrow Alexander Skvortsov will undergo additional training according to the normal procedure with the onboard simulator to reconnect the Soyuz MS-13.
" The situation is complicated but under control. "
The Soyuz MS-14 / Spacecraft 60S was launched Wednesday evening from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, replacing a crew with 1,450 pounds of cargo and an experimental robot called Skybot F-850 instead of a crew.
The main objective of The Flight was to verify the suitability of the upgraded Soyuz 2.1a booster to launch astronauts and cosmonauts into the station, as well as to review various Soyuz upgrades that were performed flawlessly and are expected to be used by the Russians Use missions with crew early next year.
The two-day rendezvous went smoothly into the final minutes of the approach: After further testing, the Soyuz turned around its longitudinal axis, before he briefly put on the Pois k module docking port But instead of holding on, the nose floated away in large arches, almost as if the spaceship was looking for a signal to go to Hau
Ovchinin and Skvortsov monitored from the Zvezda module at the back of the space station. In contrast to unmanned Progress supply ships, which have equipment on board, with the cosmonauts can take over the manual control in case of problems, the normally occupied Soyuz relies on problems to the driver.
"Too bad we can not do that TORU," one of the cosmonauts said, referring to the backup control system. "We would grab it and bring it in."
While the Skybot robot is being developed on the command seat of the Soyuz spacecraft MS-14 to perform a variety of relatively complex tasks, controlling a Soyuz is far beyond the capabilities.