NASA Weighs Excessive Vibrations on Space Station
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.
Credit: NASA.

NASA engineers are studying the impact of excessive vibrations aboard the International Space Station to make sure the unexpected shaking did not damage the $100 billion orbital lab.

Engineers are checking the space station?s integrity after a Jan. 14 thruster firing aimed at boosting the outpost?s orbit to meet the expected arrival of two spacecraft later this month. But the two-minute, 22-second rocket engine firing led to ?higher-than-usual structural oscillations? on the 10-year-old space station, NASA officials said in a Jan. 24 update.

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

NASA officials have said an initial review of the space station?s subsystems ?have not shown any off-nominal results,? according to a Jan. 29 update.

Earlier today, mission managers at NASA?s Johnson Space Center in Houston cleared the space station?s structure of any concerns for another planned thruster firing initially slated for Wednesday, NASA spokesperson 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 space station 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 space shuttle Discovery, which is slated to launch Feb. 12 and dock at the orbiting lab two days later to deliver the final pair of U.S. solar arrays.

Humphries said the decision to cancel Wednesday?s space station maneuver did force mission planners to reschedule the planned March 25 launch of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying the outpost?s next crew and American space tourist Charles Simonyi. That Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft will now launch one day later in order to meet the space station in the preferred position, he added.

The International Space Station is currently home to Expedition 18 commander Michael Fincke and flight engineer Sandra Magnus, both of NASA, and Russian flight engineer Yury Lonchakov. Magnus is slated to return home later this month after her replacement, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, arrives aboard the shuttle Discovery.