A Russian module more than two decades in the making finally docked to the International Space Station on Thursday morning at 9:25 a.m. EST. The Nakuka Multipurpose Laboratory Module is a major upgrade for the Russian portion of the station. It includes a radiation-insulated cabin, robotic arm, toilet, water recycling, and air filtering systems, and more space for storage and astronaut living. But “Nakuka” is actually Russian for “science,” and its most important function is housing laboratory equipment for experiments to be conducted on the ISS.
Long-delayed, the Nakuka module will fill a gap on the Russian side of the station and end Russia’s status as the only major operator of the ISS without its own laboratory module.
Here’s everything you need to know about the docking, which should make for some compelling Thursday morning viewing.
When is the Nakuka module scheduled to dock?
The Nakuka module is due to dock to the ISS at 9:25 a.m. eastern time on Thursday, July 29.
What does docking involve?
The module made its way into orbit smoothly, but once there it ran into some issues. At first, it failed to fire the engines that would raise its orbit to the level of the ISS, a problem that Russian engineers were able to fix after a few stressful days.
Now the 23-ton module has to meet the station gently and in the correct orientation. It’s a mostly autonomous process, making any kind of difficulty unlikely. But after its early struggles in space engineers on Earth are almost certainly feeling quite nervous.
How can you watch it?
There are two YouTube streams you should know about. The first is one maintained by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
The second is NASA TV, which features pretty much the same video with English-language narration.
Even if you miss the docking live, it’s worth watching with kids who are interested in space. The raw power of rocket launches is only one part of space exploration after all, and the kind of delicate maneuver required to link Nauka to the ISS is another important part of the story.