A Russian spacecraft caused the International Space Station to be briefly ejected Thursday, after it accidentally fired its thrusters.
For 47 minutes, the space station lost control of its direction when the firing occurred a few hours after docking, pushing the orbital complex out of its normal configuration.
The location of the station is key to getting power from solar panels and/or communications. Communications with the ground controllers were also cut twice for a few minutes.
NASA said flight controllers have regained control by using thrusters on other Russian components of the station to correct the ship, and it is now stable and safe.
“We haven’t noticed any damage,” space station program manager Joel Montalbano said at an afternoon news conference.
“There was no immediate danger to the crew at any time.”
Montalbano said the crew didn’t really feel any movement or any vibration. NASA said the station has moved 45 degrees from its position, about one-eighth of a full circle.
NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said the complex was not rotating at all.
NASA Chief of Human Spaceflight Kathy Lueders called it a “very exciting watch.”
The accident caused NASA to postpone a repeat test flight of the Boeing crew capsule that was scheduled for Friday afternoon from Florida.
It would be Boeing’s second attempt to reach the 250-mile-high station before putting astronauts on board; Software problems failed the first test.
Russia’s much-anticipated 22-ton (20 metric tons) laboratory called Nauka arrived earlier Thursday, eight days after its launch from Russia’s launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
The launch of Naoka, which will provide more space for science experiments and crew space, has been repeatedly delayed due to technical problems. It was initially scheduled to rise in 2007.
In 2013, experts found contamination in the fuel system, which led to a long and expensive replacement. Other Nauka systems have also undergone an update or overhaul.
Spanning 43 feet (13 m) long, the Nauka became the first new cabin for the Russian portion of the outpost since 2010.
On Monday, one of the old Russian units, the Pierce spacewalk, detached from the station to make space for the new lab.
Nauka will require several maneuvers, including as many as 11 spacewalks beginning in early September, to prepare her for operation.
The space station is currently operated by NASA astronauts Mark Vande He, Shane Kimbrough, and Megan MacArthur. Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dobrov of the Russian space company Roscosmos; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshied and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Bisquet.
In 1998, Russia launched the station’s first cabin, Zarya, which was followed in 2000 by another large, Zvezda, and three smaller units in the following years. The last of them, Rassvet, arrived at the station in 2010.
Russian space officials downplayed the incident as Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, tweeted: “Everything is in order on the ISS. The crew is resting, and that’s what I advise you to do too.”