back to article International Space Station actually spun one-and-a-half times by errant Russian module's thrusters

The International Space Station actually spun one and a half times last week after the just-docked Russian Nauka module unexpectedly fired its thrusters. NASA earlier said the sudden and inadvertent rocket burn nudged the ISS 45 degrees out of attitude. Zebulon Scoville, a flight director working at the US space agency’s …

  1. Dante Alighieri
    Coat

    You missed a tagline there

    I immediately thought of Dead or Alive's classic, baby

    YouTube of Spinning Right Round

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Like a broken record, baby, round round

      Yeah, it did occur to us to do some kind of 'you spin me right round' reference but we may have worn out that gag. Shocking, I know, for a Reg editor to admit that. Exhibits A through E:

      You spin me right round, baby, right round like an exploding asteroid, baby, right round round round

      You spin me right round, storage, right round – like a ferrous-based platter baby, round round

      (Picture caption in a Lara Croft game) You spin me right round, baby, right round...

      (Picture caption of a galaxy) You spin me right round ... an artist's impression of the Milky Way

      (Crosshead in an Audacity review) You spin me right round....

      Plus, I've had many variations of Dead or Alive's smash hit on loop in my gym playlist so I don't think I can take any more spinning right round, like a record, baby, round round, you spin me right round, like a....

      C.

      1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

        Re: Like a broken record, baby, round round

        How about:

        Bonny Tyler - Turn around, bright I(ss)

        1. MyffyW Silver badge

          Or...

          Carly Simon - Coming around again

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Like a broken record, baby, round round

        Kylie Minogue - Spinning Around

        I'm spinning around, move out of my way

        I know you're feeling me 'cause you like it like this

        I'm breaking it down, I'm not the same

        I know you're feeling me 'cause you like it like this

        Vic Reeves & The Wonder Stuff - Dizzy

        Dizzy!

        I'm so dizzy, my head is spinning

        Like a whirlpool, it never ends

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Like a broken record, baby, round round

          Vic Reeves & The Wonder Stuff - Dizzy

          Who? Never heard of him, or Bob Mortimer. I think you mean Tommy Roe!

      3. Eclectic Man Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Like a broken record, baby, round round

        There, there, never mind.

        Console yourself with an apple turnover, or a slice of pineapple upside-down cake, or perhaps some Swiss roll.

        Sorry, couldn't resist. I'll get my coat, its the one covered in Greggs vegan sausage-roll crumbs.

      4. Sloppy Crapmonster

        Re: Like a broken record, baby, round round

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6337OOrNdgA

      5. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: Like a broken record, baby, round round

        Don't stop.

        That's super-calous: the frequent existance of expected puns is really quite delicious.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: You missed a tagline there

      Made me think of The Beautiful Blue Danube.

      1. Andy 68

        Re: You missed a tagline there

        o7

      2. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: You missed a tagline there

        ooo... that brings back memories...

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: You missed a tagline there

      and now I can't get that song out of my head, nor the un-brain-bleachable image of that old shock site that used that song...

    4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      "Working My Way Back to...

      You[a normal attitude]"

      by the Detroit[Houston] Spinners

    5. JSIM

      Re: You missed a tagline there

      Turn! Turn! Turn! is another, but I was focused on the cause, not the effect. I also went with a classic.

      I like smoke and lightnin', Heavy metal thunder, Racing with the wind, And the feeling that I'm under

      Yeah, Nauka, go and make it happen, Take the world in a love embrace, Fire all of your guns at once, And explode into space

      * With apologies to John Kay, born in Tilsit, Russia.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You missed a tagline there

      Blood, Sweat, and Tears. - that's how the astronauts felt.

      Spinning Wheel 1969.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U12srfQS-eo

      What goes up must come down

      Spinnin' wheel, got to go round

      Talkin' 'bout your troubles, it's a cryin' sin

      Ride a painted pony, let the spinnin' wheel spin

  2. HildyJ Silver badge
    Pint

    A new Olympic sport

    Gold medal in Space Station Spinning (subject to a drug test of the Russian team).

    Or at least a Guinness World Record.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: A new Olympic sport

      1966 Neil Armstrong and David Scott on Gemini 8 after an Agena docking test. A thruster stuck on and the spacecraft spun for several minutes at up to 300 degrees per second. Earth stars Earth Stars Earth stars Earth ……..

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: A new Olympic sport

      Station had the twisties and will have to sit out the next event.

      (Apologies to Simone)

    3. VeganVegan

      Re: A new Olympic sport

      My understanding is that the station did a back flip with a half twist.

      Quite a gymnastic move for a huge structure.

  3. mickaroo

    Typographic Error

    540...

    45.0...

    Someone mis-typed. I can see that how that discrepancy happened.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Typographic Error

      Good job it wasn't 45 radians... those units matter you know!

  4. Morrie Wyatt
    Coat

    Security.

    Poor thing was subject to so many delays getting to the ISS that it just wanted to make certain it was screwed in properly. It is just that they forgot to put the spanner on the rest of the ISS to hold it firmly in position.

  5. Gary Stewart

    I commented in the original El Reg article why I thought that the 45 degree rotation declaration was probably wrong. I had no idea how wrong it was until I read earlier today at space.com about the actual 540 degree rotation. There is something else of interest that was also in the comments to the first article that I read about at space.come today. It said that the Russians could not send the shut down command until it was over Russia and that they were still an hour away when it started. The thrusters did shut down after about 15 minutes (?) which lends credence to the idea that the only reason they shut down was because they ran out of fuel. And yet they are still trying to down play the danger to the astronauts/cosmonauts and the ISS. Is there anything else they aren't telling us? My guess is absolutely!

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      There is something they did tell us

      Reuters wrote Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote Dmitry Rogozin said:

      "Everything was going well but there was a human factor. There was some euphoria (after successful docking), everybody got relaxed,"

      I believe "relaxed" is a common misspelling of "drunk".

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: There is something they did tell us

        I believe "relaxed" is a common misspelling of "drunk".

        Especially in a Russian context.

        1. MyffyW Silver badge

          Re: There is something they did tell us

          Every nation has their euphemism .. in British English "tired and emotional" means the same.

          1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

            Re: There is something they did tell us

            ...as a newt.

    2. rassalas

      It's time we stop playing astronaut in our little tin cans, Space habitats are supposed to spin, goin up there to lose muscle and bone mass is the most poorly thought out thing that ever came out of the 60's and it's amazing that we haven't figured that out yet.

      1. cray74

        Space habitats are supposed to spin

        The ISS was designed strictly as a micro-gravity research laboratory. Out of the countless design variations of Space Station Freedom and the International Space Station, one of the dominating criteria was protection the laboratory modules from acceleration, tidal forces, vibrations, and even crew movement. Quite a few cost-cutting designs were tossed because they didn't protect the lab modules' microgravity conditions. For example, the simple gravity-gradient stabilized Power Tower concept for Freedom was dropped because by using lab modules as ballast at one end of the tower they were subject to some tiny G-forces.

        You don't get a microgravity environment by spinning the entire space station. You don't get a clean microgravity environment in a lab if part of the station is spinning, leaving the rest of the station shaking, shivering, and suffering gyroscopic precession as it orbits Earth.

        goin up there to lose muscle and bone mass is the most poorly thought out thing that ever came out of the 60's and it's amazing that we haven't figured that out yet.

        The ISS's research work is dominated by two fields: biology and materials science. A great many of the biology studies coming out of the ISS, like the Twins Study, are all about that bone and muscle loss. The whole point of 6-month and 1-year tours on the ISS is to find out what spaceflight does to humans because the 1960s left a lot of blanks.

        The 1960s and 1970s 3-year Martian roundtrips or 14-month Venus flybys envisaged at the time would've crippled and incapacitated the astronauts and cosmonauts because space agencies of the era were clueless about long-term spaceflight effects.

        The ISS's non-spinning environment has answered a lot of important questions over the last two decades of service, questions that would not have been answered with a spinning space station.

        1. G.Y.

          scurvy

          "A great many of the biology studies coming out of the ISS, like the Twins Study, are all about that bone and muscle loss. The whole point of 6-month and 1-year tours on the ISS is to find out what spaceflight does to humans because the 1960s left a lot of blanks."

          This is the equivalent of doing experiments on scurvy in ships, instead of giving the crew lemons

  6. Denarius Silver badge
    Coat

    cant help it

    now the Russians and Chinese are trying to do their own space stations, one wonders if that module name is a spelling error. Nukem or nukem from space perhaps ? What was that pop song line about upside down also ?

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: cant help it

      My casual habit of reading and mild dyslexia achieved the same morphing.

  7. Sceptic Tank
    Mushroom

    4, 3, 2, 1 Earth below us

    There's no ball valve on the fuel supply line?

    1. Jon 37 Silver badge

      Re: 4, 3, 2, 1 Earth below us

      Probably not anywhere the astronaughts can get to, no. They will be relying on electrically operated valves.

      Running the fuel pipe from the tank, through the pressure vessel, to a valve, then back out through the pressure vessel to the thrusters, is a bad idea. It would add lots of mass, and on a spacecraft everything is about mass reduction. It would also add new failure modes, the pipe or valve could leak fuel directly into the atmosphere the crew are breathing, which is both a fire risk and a poison risk.

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: 4, 3, 2, 1 Earth below us

      I tried to find the propellants used by Nauka and the closest I could get was it is a descendant of the TKS spacecraft. That used unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and dinitrogen tetroxide. 252ppm of UDMH will kill half a rat in 4 hours. I could not find a figure for NTO but I think it is deadly at a few parts per billion.

      Space craft designers make sure everything to do with these propellants is outside the pressure hull so someone would have to put on a space suit, go outside and dismantle Nauka to find a ball valve. There are probably several buttons that could be pressed to turn of the thrusters from inside Nauka. At the time the hatch was closed and so that a leak or poor docking seal would show up as a drop in pressure.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: 4, 3, 2, 1 Earth below us

        Upvote for 'half a rat'; presumably referring to LD50

  8. spireite Bronze badge
    Coat

    Official name for a rotation unit?

    Henceforth, known as a Scoville unit - as we know it's chilli in space.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Official name for a rotation unit?

      Surely the "Zebulon" is an even better choice? Were someone's parents Douglas Adams fans perhaps?

      1. Francis Boyle

        Re: Official name for a rotation unit?

        Or maybe DNA is now secretly writing reality from some other place. If so, might I humbly suggest that the mutant virus plotline has run its course and it's probably time to get back to the dual headed aliens.

  9. Spanners Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Metric Conversion?

    Remember, these are people from the US talking here. Perhaps they have a different size of degrees.

    It's quite an easy conversion. Multiply US "degrees" by 12 to get real ones...

  10. cray74
    Pint

    Additional bits

    Other reports indicate that Nauka wasn't just spinning the station:

    "...[Scoville] soon realized that it was not and that Nauka was not only firing its thrusters, but that it was trying to actually pull away from the space station that it had just docked with. And he was soon told that the module could only receive direct commands from a ground station in Russia, which the space station wouldn't pass over for over an hour."

    The severity of the situation is summarized by Scoville's later tweet that he had never "been so happy to see all solar arrays + radiators still attached."

    Well, here's a toast to the engineers that dealt with the Nauka's excitement with calm and poise.

    1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Additional bits

      "And he was soon told that the module could only receive direct commands from a ground station in Russia,"

      Seems like a very poor design. I would expect that local control of an approaching craft would be far more responsive than waiting for ground controllers to interpret data. Lacking a qualified pilot (if this was the case), I'd at least like a Big Red Button on the ISS to shut things down.

      Failing all of that, just don't do any maneuvering when not in sight of a ground control up/down link.

  11. imanidiot Silver badge

    I've had some exciting days at work, but none come even close to the one the astronauts and ground crew must have had. Thrilling stuff indeed.

  12. rassalas

    It's about time someone tried to add gravity to the space station. We can't keep "Sitting in a Tin Can" up there like we have since the 1960's. Build big, add spin, forget earth, and move on outwards.

  13. Antonius_Prime
    Joke

    Entirely clear to see what happened here...

    The controller in Russia had Kerbal Space Program running in one window and the Nauka stuff in another.

    And got confused.

    Give it 3 weeks and it'll show up in an On Call or Who, Me?...

    (Icon obvious)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Didn't notice?!

    "slow enough to go unnoticed by the crew members on board,”

    You mean apart from the fact the Earth was visible from a different window every few seconds!

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: Didn't notice?!

      Hey, they did say they were "relaxed" afterwards!

    2. Tom Chiverton 1 Silver badge

      Re: Didn't notice?!

      Or the way the walls wanted to rotate around you...

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Didn't notice?!

      >You mean apart from the fact the Earth was visible from a different window every few seconds!

      The astronauts are government employees, they can't spend the morning looking out of the window.

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: Didn't notice?!

        >they can't spend the morning looking out of the window.

        ... because then they'd have nothing to do in the afternoon.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Didn't notice?!

          Ba-dum !

  15. elregidente

    The most surreal white-wash I've ever seen

    I could be completely wrong, but to date the impression I have is that NASA and Roscosmos are so utterly intent on presenting what happened as zero-risk, no-danger, nothing-to-see here, that the actual truth of what happened is something we shall not know from them.

    Why they're trying to do this I do not know, because it's so staggeringly obvious that uncommanded booster firing is the most extra-ordinarily mind-blowing fuck-up.

    So I'm looking at this and it's not even just the cover-up; it's that they seem to be seriously attempting so utterly futile a cover-up.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Nauka was sent commands by its controllers to not only shut off its engines but also to ensure they wouldn't unexpectedly fire again"

    Oh, I know how they did that. I saw a documentary that included the process. A cosmonaut yells "this ess how ve feex tings on Russian space station!" while he hits things with a chunk of pipe.

    Granted the documentary was more focused on unconventiomal NASA operations, so the Russian portrayal may have inaccuracies.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quickly let the Olympic committee know

    I smell a potential Olympic sport here, forget your ollie's, nollie's, shovit's, frontside 180's, backside 180's, and kickflips.... international freestyle space station trick riding. That ought to be suitably free of controversy and considerably more dangerous than anything else on offer. Consider the viewing figures as ISS crashes into pacific

  18. vincent himpe

    ditch the damn thing

    Engines don't fire when they need to, fire when they don't need to. Direct command possible when flying over Russia.

    25 Year overdue contraption full of hardware and software bugs. Slap a sticker on the docking hatch 'Return to sender, Defective', undock it, send it back to origin. may it burn up in pieces.

  19. JSIM

    While reading The Reg, I began to chew my first bite of the first hot banana pepper from this year's back-yard crop, just picked and roasted and now on my dinner-plate. I waited in anticipation for the desired capsicum kick as I read the following words:

    "Scoville – who wasn't even supposed to be working that day, and was..."

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