Russia's ISS Multipurpose Laboratory Module launches after years sitting on a shelf, immediately runs into issues


Russia's latest contribution to the International Space Station (ISS), successfully launched yesterday, but appears to have run into problems on orbit.

Dubbed "Nauka" (meaning "Science"), the Multipurpose Laboratory Module predates the ISS itself. Construction started in the late 1990s, and continued in stops and starts during the 21st century.

Launch dates for the lab came and went over subsequent decades. The European Space Agency (ESA) provided a robot arm for the module, which sat in storage as the years passed and the delays piled up. Problems with the propulsion system, contamination in the tanks, and expiration of components all contributed to the arrival date at the ISS moving further into the future.

It was therefore with considerable relief that the hefty module was finally launched into orbit at 14:58 UTC yesterday, 21 July 2021, atop a Proton-M, the first of the year for the heavy-lifter. The Proton-M has been used for the last 20 years. The Proton-K was responsible for launching the Zvezda module of the ISS in 2000.

Like Zvezda, Nauka is to make its way to the ISS using its thrusters to adjust its orbit. The 23-ton module is set to automatically dock to the ISS port vacated by the Pirs docking module, which was added to the ISS in 2001. The docking is set to take place on 29 July.

However, all does not appear to be well aboard the veteran module. While Roscosmos has yet to comment on the matter, it appears problems with propulsion have continued to dog Nauka.

UPDATE: #Nauka's main engines (pictured in operation) are currently out of commission. Specialists are troubleshooting the issue and developing a backup rendezvous plan. The module has ~30 stable orbits at current altitude. EXCLUSIVE DETAILS: https://t.co/KZE3WlnXSu pic.twitter.com/uEAP4irjyi

— Anatoly Zak (@RussianSpaceWeb) July 22, 2021

Other technical problems bedevilling the spacecraft include issues with the docking sensors, which could make for a sporty manual rendezvous assuming Nauka's propulsion problems can be resolved.

While The Register's queries to Roscosmos have been met with silence, the undocking of the Pirs module from the ISS has reportedly been moved to Saturday, hinting that plans are being reshuffled while engineers work on the fix.

Options are limited should there indeed only be another 30 or so stable orbits left. It might be possible for the module to reach the ISS using alternative thrusters. More fanciful (and implausible) ideas include somehow bringing forward the next Soyuz launch to dock with and rescue the stricken module.

The alternative would be a possible uncontrolled re-entry of Nauka. With luck, that "backup rendezvous plan" will remove that possibility.

For now we remain hopeful that the issues will be dealt in the coming hours by engineers on the ground and Nauka makes its planned rendezvous with the ISS. ®

  • Update now – and maybe firewall the thing off while you're at it

    Atlassian has warned Jira Data Center users of a critical vulnerability, offering attackers the opportunity for arbitrary remote code execution – and they're easily exploited over the network.

    "This advisory discloses a critical severity security vulnerability introduced in version 6.3.0 of Jira Data Center, Jira Core Data Center, Jira Software Data Center, and Jira Service Management Data Center (known as Jira Service Desk prior to 4.14)," Atlassian said in a security bulletin published late last night.

    "Atlassian rates the severity level of this vulnerability as critical," it continued, the highest on its four-point severity scale following the vulnerability being given a CVSS score of 9.8 – just below the 10-point maximum.

    Continue reading
  • It's the only way to be sure

    After setting the "days since a security cock-up" counter back to zero, Microsoft has published an official workaround for its Access Control Lists (ACLs) vulnerability (CVE-2021-36934).

    The solution? Use the icacls command to deal with the permissions set for the contents of system32\config, which are at the root of the problem, and then wipe any Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) shadow copies that were taken prior to the icacls fix.

    It's hardly an ideal solution, since those shadow copies could have been taken for a good reason (rather than Microsoft just firing off the operation when it feels like it). As the CVE update notes: "Deleting shadow copies could impact restore operations, including the ability to restore data with third-party backup applications."

    Continue reading
  • If you're wondering why some websites disappeared today

    Updated Akamai's Edge DNS service went down on Thursday morning, US West Coast time, knocking over its customers' websites as it fell.

    As of 0909 PDT (1609 UTC), the status page of Akamai – which sites around the world rely upon to deliver content among other services – said, "We are aware of an emerging issue with the Edge DNS service."

    A short time later, the biz characterized the incident as a "service disruption":

    Continue reading
  • At least Redmond is taking some security seriously

    Microsoft has snapped up cloud security outfit CloudKnox while researchers continue to poke holes in its down-to-earth Windows operating system.

    The acquisition comes a week after the purse strings were loosened for RiskIQ and amid ongoing woes around a succession of vulnerabilities in its flagship OS. Still, at least the company is taking cloud security seriously.

    CloudKnox is all about cloud infrastructure entitlement and permissions management, and the protection of resources from permission exploitation. Vaguely ironic, considering the recent snafu over Windows file permissions.

    Continue reading
  • Some of the stuff going on in the industry is completely out of order

    A new initiative aims to make it easier to report personal abuse and harassment within the information security industry – without the involvement of social media mobs.

    Respect in Security, launched today with support from Trend Micro's veep of security research Rik Ferguson, Lisa Forte, a partner at Red Goat Cyber Security and other notable folk from the UK infosec scene, aims to set up a "vulnerability style" reporting scheme for infosec professionals to flag up harassment and abuse to abusers' employers.

    Research commissioned by Respect in Security said about a third of 302 industry professionals had experienced harassment at work while online and in-person, with a significant amount of in-person harassment occurring at industry events and during work socials.

    Continue reading
  • UK Home Sec must now sign it off and then it's a High Court matter

    Mike Lynch, former chief exec of Autonomy, has reportedly lost his US extradition fight at its earliest stage in London's Westminster Magistrates' Court.

    District Judge Michael Snow announced his decision at a virtual hearing earlier this afternoon.

    Lynch's legal team confirmed the news The Register, which is also being reported on subscription-only legal newswire Law360.

    Continue reading
  • Head start from pre-pandemic guesswork running out, and mass production potentially years ago

    Texas Instruments is flexing its chip-making muscles, boasting of impressive foresight in avoiding the worst of the component shortages and its progress in bringing two new fabs online – but admits it could be years before either begin producing in volume.

    "We are investing for the long-term," Dave Pahl, head of investor relations, claimed during the company's earnings call. "Some of the obvious things that you can see are the new manufacturing investments in RFAB2. If you're down here in Texas, you will see cranes up over the building. I think I counted six or seven at the max that were up over that."

    Pahl confirmed the company is investing in all its fabrication facilities to bring supply closer to meeting demand, increasing its output at the RFAB1 facility and continuing work to bring RFAB2, its third 300mm wafer facility, online.

    Continue reading
  • Not just the legacy HR and finance systems being booted

    The UK’s consumer guardian for the financial services sector looks set to chop 38 jobs from its IT department in favour of buying Workday cloud-based HR and hiring an external service provider to support its compute plans.

    Just week ago, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) launched a tender for an IT services partner capable of supporting and developing its new data warehouse and CRM systems in a deal that could be worth up to £22m. It is also set to go live in September on Workday’s SaaS finance and HR system under a £6m, five-year contract awarded in November 2020.

    In a communication to the IT department - seen by The Reg - CIO Nicola Wadham said the “organisation change journey” was not over, and the team would “need to respond to changes the technology roadmap brings”.

    Continue reading
  • Swings and roundabouts: They also drove a 58% boost to business revenue

    Netgear has blamed a noticeable slump in one market sector on a surprising cause: the COVID-19 vaccination programme in the UK and US.

    In results published late yesterday, the computer networking outfit boasted of double-digit revenue growth and a 58 per cent boost in products aimed at small and medium-sized businesses year-on-year. The company's numbers were pushed down, however, by ongoing component shortages affecting the whole industry and an admitted misstep in forecasts following the unexpected success of the ongoing vaccination programme.

    "We were planning that it would be a 50 per cent growth over 2019 first half," chief exec Patrick Lo told folk on the earnings call regarding its projections for the lucrative connected home product market – revenue from which ended the quarter down 12.6 per cent sequentially and flat year-on-year.

    Continue reading
  • Cloud apps giant sets off to invent the future of work and beat Microsoft Teams

    Salesforce has completed its long-awaited mega-slurp of Slack Technologies, Inc for an eye-watering $27.7bn.

    The intention to buy was made public back in December 2020, when the business run by Marc Benioff said: "Slack will be deeply integrated into every Salesforce Cloud."

    The CRM firm said Slack, which at the time had listed just 18 months before on the NYSE with a valuation of $16bn+, would also become the interface to Salesforce's CRM platform.

    Continue reading
  • A post on why using Kubernetes to scale would mean "doing mostly the same things but in a more complicated way" was so popular that the site hosting the article went down due to the sheer volume of traffic.

    Maik Zumstrull is writer of code at Ably, a company which runs pub/sub (publish and subscribe) messaging services. He wrote a post titled "No, we don't use Kubernetes" stating that the Google-invented container orchestration software is "very much at the peak of its hype cycle."

    However, he added that for what Ably does – "run a large scale production infrastructure that powers our customers' real-time messaging applications around the world" – using Kubernetes would not help. His post appears to have been prompted by the fact that some customers and potential new recruits see this non-adoption as a problem. "We have even had interesting candidates walk away from job offers citing the fact that we don't use Kubernetes as the reason," Zumstrull said.

    Continue reading