Russians to Launch Long-Delayed Module to Space Station Next Year

Multifunctional Laboratory Module (Credit: Khrunichev)

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin has announced a new launch date — November 2019 — for the launch of its long-delayed Nauka multi-functional module to the International Space Station. Whether this new date will hold is anyone’s guess; the module’s launch will be a dozen years behind schedule by that point.

Nauka will serve as a scientific laboratory as well as a rest area for Russian astronauts aboard the space station. The module will include an airlock for experiments, crew quarters, a galley and a toilet. Nauka also includes a docking port for Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and a European-supplied robotic arm.

Construction of the Nauka module began in 1995. It was originally a backup for the Zarya module, which was the first element of space station launched in November 1998.

With Nauka no longer needed to back up Zarya, plans were made to convert it to a multi-purpose module with a launch scheduled for 2007. However, technical problems repeatedly delayed the launch.

In 2013, RSC Energia engineers found a leaking valve and contamination in Nauka’s fuel system.  The module was shipped back to Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center for repairs and cleaning.

The following year, Russian officials announced that Nauka would be further delayed because it needed a new propulsion system. The propulsion unit installed on the module had exceeded its warranty.

  • windbourne

    Kind of curious. Russia has been building all the space toilets. Does anybody know if any western entity will be building new toilets, perhaps better design?
    Have to guess that china built their own. Long past time for the west to do so.
    Ideally, add a new design shower.

  • windbourne

    As to this unit, hey, just in time to be retired.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    I read there is a toilet on the SpaceX Dragon 2. Maybe it can superseded the wonky unit in the US side of the ISS later, once we get more details from SpaceX.

  • Hope they can get this up. I’d like to see their space sector notch a solid win and then get back on track with some of their other projects.

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    Huh, learn something new about ISS each day.

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    People frequently say that gravity centrifuges are important for bone density, preventing muscle atrophy etc. – I think it’s the perfect place for the space bathroom.

  • duheagle

    Well bless your heart.

  • Larry J

    The difficulties they’ve had with the propulsion system highlight the fundamental difference in space station modules between the US and Russia. The US launched our ISS modules on the Shuttle. The Shuttle delivered the module to the ISS and performed the attachment. Using this mode of operations, the modules themselves could be relatively simple. The Russians launch their modules on a Proton booster. They enter orbit and fly themselves to the station where they rendezvous and dock. To do this, their modules have to have most of the systems needed by a large satellite to include command and control, attitude control, propulsion, and electrical systems. This makes their modules more complicated but it relieves them of the need for a Shuttle to deliver them to a space station.

  • 76 er

    Good point.

  • Michael Halpern

    It doesn’t simplify them that much all it takes is turning the module into an oversized satellite bus, Cyngus is basically that. In addition not every US (permanent) module has arrived on Shuttle, though the main examples I can think of are a storage closet and a docking adapter. Scheduled additions are a second docking adapter, an airlock and eventually a module that once fully deployed will add an additional 30% to ISS pressurized volume. All but that last were/will be transported in Dragon’s trunk of course. What makes the job a lot easier is Canadarm, it eliminates the need for every module to be capable of direct docking

  • Michael Halpern

    As i understand it, the facilities on the CCP capsules are functional, to put it nicely, a little better than what exists on Soyuz but not by much.

  • Michael Halpern

    They don’t have the money to get back on track

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Ir was in a news article that one of the Astronauts was ask about is there a toilet in the commercial crew capsules. The reply was that there was one in the Dragon 2 only.