A Proton-M rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, launching Russia’s new MLM Science module into orbit toward the International Space Station. MLM Science is the first new Russian addition to the International Space Station in a decade and the heaviest Russian cargo in orbit in 20 years.

Liftoff took place on July 21, 2021 from position 200/39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket lifted off at 16:58 Polish time and flew on this mission in a three-stage configuration – for the first time since 1998, when it was a twin Zaria chassis – the first module of the International Space Station.

All stages of the flight were successful and about 10 minutes after take-off, the third stage of the Proton-M rocket with the implemented module was in an initial orbit of 190 km at 350 km and an inclination of about 52 degrees. After several seconds, the unit separated from the upper proton segment.

Once in orbit and separated from the rocket carrying it, MLM-Science deployed communications antennas and a pair of solar panel wings. Now, for 8 days, the unit will conduct a series of orbital maneuvers to align the orbit with the International Space Station and synchronize with its position. Docking should take place on July 29 at 15:26 CEST. The approach to the terminal and docking maneuver of the lower port of the Russian Zwiezda unit will be fully automatic, using the Kurs system, also used on the flights of manned Soyuz ships and Progress cargo ships.

O MLM Nauka . unit

MLM Science is the first major research unit on the Russian part of the International Space Station. It was created as a dual reserve unit of the Zaria unit, which began the construction of the International Space Station with a successful flight in 1998. In the XXI century, it was decided to convert the reserve unit to conduct research and expand the Russian part of the station on the basis of it.

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The following years of unit development were a series of delays, due to the difficult financial situation in the Russian state-owned space sector. To make matters worse, in 2013 there was a serious contamination of all elements of the propulsion system. As a result, parts of the unit’s subsystems had to be dismantled and complex repairs carried out. These lasted for many years and there were even ideas to give up on this project.

Only in 2019, the successful completion of repairs was announced and the unit began to undergo final integration. In 2020, he successfully passed the first integration tests in a vacuum chamber and was sent to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where he underwent further testing and integration of the last elements.

The MLM Nauka weighs more than 20 tons and is 13.1 meters long. The volume of the encapsulated part of the unit is 70 cubic metres. The unit will be the main research base for work on the Russian part of the International Space Station. It has indoor spaces for experiments and outdoor platforms for exposing research to space conditions. The European robotic arm ERA will operate on the unit.

The unit will include additional sleeping quarters for one astronaut, as well as an additional toilet. The MLM Nauka will also be able to perform station diversion maneuvers using a system of actuators. There is also an Elektron supplemental atmospheric oxygen generator and water treatment systems on board.

Summary

This was the 66th successful launch of an orbital rocket in the world in 2021. The Proton-M rocket flew for the first time this year. Now, after the initial testing phase of the MMS and Theses module in orbit, approval will be issued to remove the Pirs module from the station, currently occupied by the Pet module port, on which the new Russian module will be docked. The berth will separate from the Progress MS-16 cargo ship on July 23, 2021 and will burn up in the atmosphere after de-orbiting. The berth thus becomes the first unit to be removed from the International Space Station.

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Based on: Roskosmos / NSF / RussianSpaceWeb

Written by: Rafai Grabinsky

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Pictured: a Proton-M rocket taking off with the MLM-U Science module. Source: Roscosmos.