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Engine Misfire Jolts the ISS, Shifting its Position

Unexpected engine firing on a Soyuz capsule pushed the station into a different orbit

(ESA/NASA)
smithsonian.com

Though Russian Soyuz space capsules have suffered their fair share of difficulties, they’re also a critical lifeline at the International Space Station — not only does Soyuz take astronauts to and from the station, but there’s at least one docked to the stations at all time as a “lifeboat” to be used in case of emergency. But on Tuesday, reports The Associated Press, that lifeboat gave an unexpected jolt to the ISS, causing the station’s orbit to change.

The AP reports that the shift happened when a docked Soyuz craft unexpectedly started during a testing procedure. In a statement, the Russian space agency Roscosmos told the AP that though specialists were still trying to figure out why the engine started, the station’s crew were not in danger. The agency declined to identify which of the two Soyuz currently docked at the station went haywire.

In May, a Soyuz failed to make it to the ISS with cargo. NASA Spaceflight’s Chris Bergin writes that the craft was “doomed just minutes into its launch” when it suffered a major malfunction, which caused the ship to spin, then fall back into Earth’s atmosphere. The crashed craft caused some schedule delays for both NASA and other space agencies, with astronauts staying up in space longer than expected.

However, the AP writes that the space station’s jolt won’t affect this week’s plans to send astronauts home. In a release, NASA writes that Commander Terry Virts and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti will head home on a Soyuz craft Thursday, with another Soyuz mission scheduled for July. Seems like the surprising shake was just a bump in the road.

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