Nauka (ISS module)

Nauka (Russian: Нау́ка; lit. Science), also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), (Russian: Многофункциональный лабораторный модуль, or МЛМ), is a component of the International Space Station (ISS) which has not yet been launched into space. The MLM is funded by the Roscosmos State Corporation. In the original ISS plans, Nauka was to use the location of the Docking and Stowage Module. Later, the DSM was replaced by the Rassvet module and it was moved to Zarya's nadir port. Planners anticipate Nauka will dock at Zvezda's nadir port, replacing Pirs.[1]

The launch of Nauka, initially planned for 2007, has been repeatedly delayed for various reasons. As of June 2019, the launch to the ISS is assigned to no earlier than June 2020.[2] After this date, the warranties of some of Nauka's systems will expire.

Original plans for Nauka

In the 1990s, plans for the Russian segment of the ISS included several research modules that were intended to be adjunct to Zarya and Zvezda. In these earlier plans, the now-cancelled complex of the Universal Docking Module (UDM) and the two newly developed Russian Research Modules were to be attached Zvezda's nadir port – the UDM was to be based on the Functional Cargo Block FGB-2. The FGB-2 was originally built as a backup for the original launch of the Zarya (FGB) module – FGB-2's construction had been halted at 70-percent completeness in the late 1990s.

However, the plans changed in the early 2000s. In August 2004, it was decided to build the Nauka ISS module based on the FGB-2.[3] During that time there was an alternate, rejected proposal for Nauka from RKK Energia, based on the cancelled Commercial Enterprise Module (entertainment and studio module), which was to be jointly funded by RKK Energia and SPACEHAB.[4]

Work on Nauka and launch date

At the end of 2005, the European Space Agency (ESA) agreed with the Russians that the European Robotic Arm would be launched together with Nauka, mated on its surface for a later deployment in space. A spare elbow joint for the European Robotic Arm was already launched together with Rassvet.

In 2004, the Russian Federal Space Agency stated that Nauka should be ready for launch in 2007 on a Russian Proton rocket. However, the Nauka project was delayed further, first to 2008 and later to 2009. A November 2006 ESA bulletin mentioned that the RSA was negotiating with the ISS partners to push back the prospective launch date to the end of 2008. In October 2011, it was reported that Nauka was expected to be launched at the end of 2013.[5] In May 2012, it was reported that the launch date had been pushed back to 2014.[6] The next planned launch date was April 2014, according to Vitaly Lopota, president of RSC Energia.[7]

On October 25, 2013, Parabolic Arc reported that Nauka was flawed and had failed acceptance testing at RKK Energia.[8] Found problems in the propulsion system included a leaking fueling valve that needed to be replaced and contamination, which would require a lengthy cleaning.[9] The module was to be returned to Khrunichev for repairs which would take another 12 to 18 months.[8] On November 27, 2013, it was reported that the Russian Space Agency had informed NASA that the launch had been postponed until at least 2015.[10] In April 2014, it emerged that the target date for launch was postponed to February 2017: a new propulsion system needed to be manufactured, as the installed had exceeded its warranty.[9] The leaking fueling valve had also damaged the module's exterior plumbing, necessitating the replacement of most of the plumbing.[11]

By November 2016, the tentative launch date had slipped to mid-2018,[12] aboard a Proton M rocket. It then slipped further with a projected launch date of March 2019, before a December 20, 2018 launch date was confirmed in December 2017. In August 2018, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin set a new launch date of November 2019.[13]. However, the propellant tanks were found to be contaminated with metallic dust in 2017, requiring repair and replacement work; a tentative new launch date in June 2020 may not be met because the repair of the fuel tanks was unsuccessful; NPO Lavochkin will produce new single-use fuel tanks based on the Fregat upper stage.[11] Production of this new fuel system, installation into Nauka (at NPO Energia), and additional testing will delay launch beyond 2020.[14] On 17th October 2019 the TASS released information about successful repair of original tanks, so Fregat-based tanks are not needed anymore. The launch date of Nauka in November 2020 was confirmed (see On 14th November 2019 Russians informed ESA partners, that launch of Nauka is again postponed for at least three months. Launch in year 2021 means another work on certification of aging equipment.


Nauka will initially be used for experiments, docking and cargo. It will also serve as a crew work and rest area. Nauka will be equipped with full guidance and navigation control including engines and an attitude control system that can be used as a backup by the ISS. It will be docked onto the Zvezda module's nadir (Earth facing) docking port. Outfitting equipment launched in 2010 with the Rassvet (Mini-Research Module 1) on NASA's STS-132 will also be used for Nauka, the spare elbow joint for the European Robotic Arm (launched with Nauka), internal hardware and an experimental airlock will be positioned on one of the side-facing ports at the bottom of the module. The new module will contain crew quarters with life support equipment including atmospheric processing, galley and toilet.[5]

Primary research module

Nauka will be Russia's primary ISS research module. For some time, NASA's official plans included a second research module around the same size as Nauka, listed to be "under review", but it was eventually cancelled, leaving Nauka to be the only Russian research module besides Rassvet and Poisk (Mini-Research Module 2).


  • Length: 13 metres (42.65 ft)
  • Diameter: 4.11 metres (13.5 ft)
  • Mass: 20,300 kilograms (44,800 lb)

See also


  1. Morring, Frank (23 May 2012). "Russia Sees Moon Base As Logical Next Step". Aviation Week. Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  2. "Station mission planning reveals new target Commercial Crew launch dates". NASASpaceFlight. 20 June 2019. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  3. "02.26.97.iss.memo". 1997. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  4. Zak, Anatoly. "Russian segment of the ISS". RussianSpaceWeb. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  5. Chernoivanova, Alina (19 October 2011). "Новые деньги под старую "Науку"" [New money for the old "Science"]. (in Russian). Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  6. Morring, Frank (23 May 2012). "Russia Sees Moon Base As Logical Next Step". Aviation Week. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  7. "О запусках новых российских модулей МКС" [About launches of new Russian modules to the ISS] (in Russian). 24 August 2013.
  8. "Роскосмос сообщил НАСА, что модуль МЛМ не войдет в состав МКС в 2014 г." [Roscosmos has informed NASA that the MLM module will not join ISS in 2014]. RIA Novosti (in Russian). 27 November 2013.
  9. "MLM (FGB-2) module of the ISS". RussianSpaceWeb.
  10. "Russia Postpones Space Lab Launch Again". RIA Novosti. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  11. Atkinson, Ian (3 July 2019). "Russia pressing forward on ISS expansion". Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  12. Karasev, Sergey (7 November 2016). "Запуск лабораторного модуля "Наука" к МКС откладывается" [Launch of the Nauka laboratory module to the ISS postponed] (in Russian). Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  13. "Research module Nauka to be launched to ISS in November 2019". Tass. 16 August 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  14. "Источник: на модуль МКС "Наука" поставят баки от разгонного блока "Фрегат"" ["Source: tanks from the "Fregat" upper stage will be put on the ISS "Nauka" module"]. Tass (in Russian). 16 March 2019. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
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