Russian Multipurpose Research Module finally heads to the ISS

After more than a decade of delays, Russia finally launched a long-awaited research module to the ISS this week. The module is called the Russian Multipurpose Research Module (MLM) and is known as Nauka. The laboratory was supposed to have arrived and been fitted to the orbiting space station 14 years ago.

Nauka launched on Wednesday, July 21 at 1058 EDT atop a Proton-M rocket. The launch was handled at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Originally, Nauka was supposed to have launched in 2007. It weighs 22-tons and carries the European Robotic Arm, a new robotic arm design to service the Russian segment of the space station.

The ISS module successfully separated from the module 580 seconds after liftoff. The flight from its orbital insertion to the ISS will take eight days and is completely autonomous. Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, confirmed Nauka had successfully deployed its solar panels and antennas nearly 13 minutes after liftoff.

The laboratory module has its own engines and uses them to raise its orbit to dock with the ISS. The docking is supposed to occur on July 29, and Nauka will be the largest Russian component on the station. The module measures over 42 feet long and has a maximum diameter of 14 feet. Once fitted to the ISS, it will house research facilities and provided a spare bed for a cosmonaut.

It also has its own toilet, oxygen regeneration system, and equipment for recycling water from urine. Prior to Nauka docking with the ISS, cosmonauts must remove the Pirs docking module currently fitted to the ISS Zvezda service module. Nauka will take that module's place with the undocking currently scheduled for 9:17 AM EDT on Friday, July 23. NASA TV will air full coverage of the undocking of Pirs, which has been fitted to the ISS for nearly 20 years.