A few hours ago the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft, which blasted off about two days ago from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, attempted to dock with the International Space Station but a communications problem forced to abort the maneuver. Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov are working together with the Russian space agency Roscosmos to retry the docking on Monday while the Soyuz MS-14 remains at a safe distance.
Russian spacecraft are equipped with a system called Kurs for automatic docking that was developed over the decades by the USSR first and then by Russia. The communications between a spacecraft and a station, which once could have been the Russian space station Mir and today is the International Space Station, allow to know during the maneuvers the relative position between the spacecraft and the station to proceed step by step in safety.
Today, something didn’t work forcing cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov, who were following the approach of the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft, to abort the maneuver. When new personnel arrive on the International Space Station, the commander of a Soyuz spacecraft can pilot it manually if there are problems with the automatic system but this time the spacecraft is uncrewed.
The first news coming after the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft docking was aborted indicates that the problem with the Kurs system is in an amplifier on the International Space Station. The systems are redundant and this means that it’s possible to switch to another amplifier available on the Station. The Russian space agency Roscosmos is working with its cosmonauts to do that and verify that the backup amplifier works properly.
When a spacecraft reaches the International Space Station, safety is the priority and this means that the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft’s maneuver was aborted before there could be any danger to the Station and its crew. The Soyuz MS-14 moved away to a safe distance from where it will keep on following the Station, hoping that the problem will be solved and maybe Monday it can proceed with the docking.