NASA Weighs Excessive Vibrations on Space Station

As One Russian Cargo Ship Burns Up, Replacement Prepares to Fly
Backdropped by a blue and white Earth and the blackness of space, the International Space Station is seen from space shuttle Endeavour as the two spacecraft begin their relative separation on Nov. 28, 2008 during the STS-126 mission. (Image credit: NASA.)

NASAengineers are studying the impact of excessive vibrations aboard theInternational Space Station to make surethe unexpected shaking did not damage the $100 billion orbital lab.

Engineersare checking the space station?s integrity after a Jan. 14 thruster firing aimed atboosting the outpost?s orbit to meet the expected arrival of two spacecraftlater this month. But the two-minute, 22-second rocket engine firing led to ?higher-than-usualstructural oscillations? on the 10-year-oldspace station, NASA officials said in a Jan. 24 update.

Reports ofthe space station?s vibrations were posted in NASA?s daily status updates onthe outpost and first reported by USA Today. Video of the move obtainedby MSNBC shows a wildly shaking camera inside the space station duringthe Jan. 14 maneuver.

NASAofficials have said an initial review of the space station?s subsystems ?havenot shown any off-nominal results,? according to a Jan. 29 update.

Earliertoday, mission managers at NASA?s Johnson Space Center in Houston cleared thespace station?s structure of any concerns for another planned thruster firing initially slated for Wednesday, NASAspokesperson Kelly Humphries said during the agency?s daily mission commentary.But that planned maneuver was cancelled by Russian flight controllers, who said it was no longer required, he added.

The spacestation is in an acceptable position to jettison an older Russian cargo ship,Progress 31, on Thursday, and link up with its Progress 32 replacement on Feb.13, Humphries said. The space station is also in position to meet NASA?s spaceshuttle Discovery, which is slatedto launch Feb. 12 and dock at the orbiting lab two days later to deliverthe final pair of U.S. solar arrays.

Humphriessaid the decision to cancel Wednesday?s space station maneuver did forcemission planners to reschedule the planned March 25 launch of a Russian Soyuzspacecraft carrying the outpost?s next crew and American space tourist CharlesSimonyi. That Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft will now launch one day later in order tomeet the space station in the preferred position, he added.

TheInternational Space Station is currently home to Expedition18 commander Michael Fincke and flight engineer Sandra Magnus, both ofNASA, and Russian flight engineer Yury Lonchakov. Magnus is slated to returnhome later this month after her replacement, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata,arrives aboard the shuttle Discovery.


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.