The International Space Station suddenly changed course when the engines of the new Russian module were launched, just hours after it was connected to the ISS. The engines of Nauka, a 23-ton laboratory, moved the ISS 45 degrees, and alerted Roscosmos and NASA, as well as the ISS crew. About an hour later, Houston and Moscow regained control of the station and returned it to its normal position.

Roscosmos attributed the error to a software failure, making the Nauka module believe it had to be removed from the station. Nauka’s action was countered by another Russian module, Zvezda, which also fired its engines in the opposite direction of Nauka to balance the forces exerted on the station. In fact, the head of communications at NASA informed the astronauts about this process, describing it as a tug of war.

Just to let you guys know, we are now in a tug-of-war between the engines that ignite between Zvezda and Nauka. We are trying to find the best way to act.

Due to a short-term error in the software, a direct command was accidentally incorporated to activate the module motors for withdrawal, which resulted in a change in the orientation of the station as a whole. – Vladimir Solovyov, head of the Russian section of the ISS

Nauka means “science” in Russian and is a multi-laboratory which has been developed since 1995 and after many redesigns, was launched on July 21, 2021.

The incident forced NASA to cancel the scheduled launch of the Boeing Starliner for the ISS until the station’s orbit stabilized and the new launch date is August 3.