Russian thrusters accidentally tilt International Space Station again

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Russian thrusters have accidentally tilted the International Space Station (ISS) for the second time this year. 

The Soyuz MS-18 was scheduled to bring a small crew back to Earth early Sunday morning. During a planned pre-departure test at around 5:02 a.m. EDT, the thrusters continued to fire beyond the end of the test, resulting in a “loss of attitude control.” 

“Within 30 minutes, flight controllers regained attitude control of the space station, which is now in a stable configuration,” NASA officials wrote. “The crew was awake at the time of the event and was not in any danger.”

The lab briefly deviated from its standard orientation by 57 degrees, according to SPACE.com. The engines shut off on their own, possibly due to the engines running out of propellant, according to NASA flight director Timothy Creamer. 

The cause of the deviant engine activity remains unknown. NASA and Russia’s federal space agency, Roscosmos, have opened a joint investigation into the incident. 

The small crew scheduled to fly home on Sunday included cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, film director Klim Shipenko and actor Yulia Presild. The departure will proceed as planned. 

Positioning a Soyuz-2.1a rocket booster with the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft on a launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Positioning a Soyuz-2.1a rocket booster with the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft on a launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Roscosmos Press Office/TASS

A similar incident occurred on July 29, when thrusters from a newly arrived Russian module started firing and rotated the lab by about 540 degrees. Officials claimed the earlier incident was due to a software glitch. 

“The crew was never in any danger,” NASA later tweeted of the event. 

The space station is currently operated by NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur; Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov of Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

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