It took a lot of time and effort, but the Russian multifunctional laboratory module Nauka is riveted to the International Space Station. That could be seen – also through spectacular images – on NASA TV.
The Nauka was launched on 21 July from Baikonur in Kazakhstan and shortly afterwards ran into problems, among other things and in particular with the propulsion.
Those were eventually resolved, allowing the 23-tonne module to dock yesterday with the Earth-facing docking port of the Russian control module Zvezda. This was released on Monday after decoupling the discarded Russian coupling module Pirs.
The coupling happened at 15:29 Belgian time, just under 420 km above the border between Mongolia and China. The link is fully automatic.
The module should have gone into space as early as 2007. But design changes, technical problems and a lot of setbacks caused repeated delays.
The module is not only used for scientific experiments but also as a storage and extra sleeping place. The next Russian spacewalks are scheduled for early September.