The uncrewed Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) “Nauka” is safely in orbit following launch at 10:58 a.m. (7:58 p.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The MLM deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned. After Nauka completes eight days in free-flight to allow Russian flight controllers to evaluate its systems, the 43-foot long, 23-ton module will automatically link up to the port on the Earth-facing side of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, which will be vacated by the departure of Pirs. Docking is scheduled for 9:25 a.m. Thursday, July 29, with live coverage beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Nauka will serve as a new science facility, docking port, and spacewalk airlock for future operations. Pirs has been part of the space station since September 2001, functioning as a docking port for Russian visiting spacecraft and an airlock for Russian spacewalks.
Pirs will vacate the space station attached to the uncrewed ISS Progress 77 spacecraft, which is scheduled to undock at 9:15 a.m. Friday, July 23. Live coverage on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website will begin at 8:45 a.m. A few hours later, Progress’ engines will fire in a deorbit maneuver to send the cargo craft and Pirs into a destructive reentry in the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. Deorbit and reentry will not be covered on NASA TV.