The International Space Station has been knocked out of position after a Russian science lab malfunctioned.
NASA has confirmed that the newly arrived lab accidentally fired its thrusters, resulting in the ISS losing control of its orientation for 47-minutes.
Russian cosmonauts had been checking for leaks between the new lab called Nauka and the service module, when automatic sensors on the ground detected the problem. Communication between the space station and ground controllers was also cut for a few minutes.
The 13-metre lab launched from Kazakhstan last week and took 8-days to reach the ISS, where it will provide more space for scientific experiments. It had been due for launch in 2007 but was delayed due to numerous technical problems, including contamination in its fuel system in 2013.
NASA said the crew was “never in any danger”, adding that ground teams regained control and the “motion of the space station is stable and true.”
Manager of NASA’s space station programme Joel Montalbano, said that at the height of the incident, the ISS was pitching out of alignment at the rate of about half a degree per second.
Russian space officials were also unfazed, with Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, tweeting:
“All in order at the ISS. The crew is resting, which is what I advise you to do as well.”
It is not yet clear why Nauka’s thrusters malfunctioned, but it will now need various manoeuvres, including up to 11 spacewalks, before it is ready to be used.