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MLM - ISS module.jpg
Nauka (computer graphics) at the old plan position Zarya-nadir. The coupling node (below) with the air lock (below left), the ERA (left) and the solar generators are easy to see
Space station: International space station
Start date: July 21, 2021
Launcher: Proton-M
Dimensions: 20.3 t
Length: 13 m
Diameter: 4.1 m
Adjacent modules
Flight direction
Triangle Up.svg
Triangle Left.svg Zenith / Nadir Triangle Right.svg
Zvezda / ─
Triangle Down.svg

The module Nauka ( Наука , "science") with the original name Mnogozelewoi laboratorny module (MLM, Russian Многоцелевой лабораторный модуль - МЛМ , English Multipurpose Laboratory Module , German translation multipurpose laboratory module ), is one of RKK Energia and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center on behalf of Roscosmo's built research module for the International Space Station (ISS) , which started after delays in July 2021.


Live broadcast of the launch in the Roskosmos Pavilion at the International Aviation and Space Salon 2021

Initial plans for the ISS from the early 1990s envisaged several research modules on the Russian segment of the station, which were to be added to the Zarya and Zvezda basic modules in order to significantly increase research capacities. Due to limited funds and problems with transport systems, these plans could not be pursued for years. It was not until 2009 and 2010 that Poisk and Rasswjet , which are also known as MIM 2 and MIM 1, two small modules with limited research possibilities came to the station.

In August 2004 it was decided to use the Zarya replacement module with the designation FGB-2 (short for Russian функционально-грузовой блок 2 , English Functional Cargo Block 2), which had been around 70% completed since 1998, to build Nauka was no longer needed after the successful start of Zarya on November 20, 1998. The former main contractor GKNPZ Khrunichev was replaced by RKK Energija in 2006, but Khrunichev continued to play a key role in the production of the module.

The Nauka module is constructed similarly to the Sarja module, with a length of 13 m and a maximum diameter of 4.1 m. The starting weight of the module should be 20.3 t. After the subsequent installation of all elements, the mass should increase to 24 t. The module is divided into two sections, the cylindrical main part and the spherical transition adapter. The volume under pressure is 71 m³, of which 64 m³ is accounted for by the main part and 7 m³ by the adapter.

In the initial configuration, Nauka had three coupling adapters: an active type "SSWP G4000" at the front end, which was intended for docking to the Sarja module of the ISS, and an axial and a radial passive adapter on the spherical coupling node. The axial passive coupling of the type "SSWP G4000" was intended to be used for docking Soyuz spaceships and Progress transporters. An airlock is to be attached to the radial adapter for carrying out experiments into free space.

In 2005, a contract was signed between the Russian space agency Roskosmos and the European ESA , after the European robot arm ERA is to be launched together with Nauka . In addition to maintenance and monitoring work, ERA will be able to carry out experiments in space using the airlock.

After several planning changes, the docking adapter on the Naucasus was replaced by the larger "SSWP G8000" and the module is now to be attached to the Zvezda Nadir point in 2021. For this purpose, Pirs is to be disconnected from a Progress transporter shortly beforehand and made to burn up. It is also planned to attach a special node module (platform (UM)) with a total of 6 coupling nozzles to the nadir coupling unit in 2021, which will allow the assembly of further research modules ( NEM 1 ) and the coupling of manned and unmanned spaceships.

Technical problems, startup delays and planned installation

Nauka, together with the European Robotic Arm (ERA), is to be brought to the space station from the Baikonur spaceport on board a Russian Proton-M rocket . The start of the assigned construction flight 3R was originally planned for 2009, should then take place in 2014, but was delayed again and again due to several technical problems and was planned for March 21, 2019 from October 2017, the coupling should take place on March 30, 2019. On November 2, 2017, RKK Energia announced an earlier start date of December 20, 2018, which was officially confirmed by the State Commission on December 10, 2017. This date was postponed again in May 2018, with the start being planned for November 2019. The start finally took place on July 21, 2021. The status of the module is currently uncertain, it appears that the main engine is not working or not working correctly. This is why the undocking of the PIRS module has also been postponed.

The cause was cited among other things as serious problems with the fuel and oxidizer tanks. During a defueling test in the Energia test laboratory, one of Nauka's fuel valves leaked, which in 2013 could be traced back to metal fragments which had contaminated practically the entire highly complex fuel system during the improper replacement of some parts at the manufacturer GKNPT Khrunichev. In particular, the cleaning of the total of six largely identical fuel, oxidizer and pressurized gas containers proved to be impracticable with conventional means. A special technology was developed for cleaning, which should guarantee the complete removal of the metal fragments without endangering the functionality of the tanks, which are designed as bellows, through further damage feared during cleaning.

Before the Naucasus installation, the airlock, a radiator and spare parts for the European robot arm ERA were delivered as part of the shuttle transport flight for the Rasswet module ( STS-132 ) . In space, these pieces of equipment will later be attached to Nauka by the ERA.

Scientific tasks

The main task of Naucasus will be to use it for experiments. The on-board systems include the control station for the European robot arm ERA as well as attachment and docking points on the outer skin that supply it with energy and data. In addition to its own research capacity, Nauka provides coupling adapters for the airlock and a feeder vehicle. Free coupling nozzles keep the option open to expand the research area. In the main part of the module, a sleeping place (the third in the Russian ward segment) as well as washing and toilet facilities are planned. A volume of up to 8 m³ is provided for the storage of freight and spare parts. There is space for up to 3 t of scientific equipment in Nauka, with a volume of 4 m³ available.

Nauka has the same engine systems and solar generators as Sarja. After docking with the station, the engines are to serve for additional position correction of the station and as a redundant system in the event of a failure of the control systems of Zarya and Zvezda. In addition, the module has fuel pumps and lines that should enable the fuel delivered by Progress freighters to be transferred to the other Russian modules. The solar generators are intended to generate energy for operating the module and for supplying the Russian segment.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Anatoly Zak: Russian space program in 2021. Retrieved May 25, 2020 .
  2. Alain Chabot: Russia to bump its ISS crew back to three. In: . Anatoly Zak, October 24, 2017, accessed October 25, 2017 .
  3. a b Alain Chabot: Russian engineers tackle problems with the MLM Nauka module. a: The launch of the MLM module advanced to 2018 or b: MLM launch schedule gets official OK . In: . Anatoly Zak, December 12, 2017, accessed January 9, 2018 .
  4. Alain Chabot: MLM Nauka module might be postponed again. The launch of the MLM slips to the end of 2019 . In: . Anatoly Zak, February 5, 2018, accessed June 6, 2018 .
  5. Alain Chabot: How MLM module was hit with a contamination disaster. In: . Anatoly Zak, February 5, 2018, accessed July 30, 2018 .
  6. ^ Alain Chabot: Tank system for the MLM module. In: . Anatoly Zak, August 5, 2018, accessed July 30, 2018 .