Russian Pirs Module Undocks from Station is Decommissioned after 20 Years of Service

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Russia’s unpiloted ISS Progress 77 (77P) cargo craft (Progress MS-16)  undocked from the International Space Station while attached to the Pirs docking compartment at 6:55 a.m. EDT, July 26, 2021. Credit: Roscosmos/NASA TV. Screenshot: SpaceUpClose
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CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – Russia’s Pirs docking module was uncoupled from the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, July 26, and decommissioned after 20 years of excellent service to the station – pulled away by the Russian Progress 77 cargo ship to which it was joined in order to make way at the newly opened docking port for the “Nauka” science module from Roscosmos leading to significant upgrades in research work by cosmonauts.

The undocking of the Pirs docking compartment module and Progress 77 stack was finally accomplished at 6:55 a.m. EDT July 26 from a port on the Earth-facing (nadir) side of the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

Pirs departure was delayed from Friday, July 23 to Monday to allow Russian fight controllers more time to assess Nauka’s flight status and confirm its ability to dock as planned on Thursday, July 29 – 1 day prior to the Boeing Starliner unpiloted OFT-2 test flight launch for NASA to the ISS.

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“The unpiloted Russian Progress 77 cargo spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station while attached to the Pirs docking compartment at 6:55 a.m. EDT,” NASA officials confirmed during a live broadcast of the undocking shown on NASA TV.

Pirs has been part of the space station since September 2001, functioning as a docking port for Russian visiting spacecraft and an airlock for Russian spacewalks.

Russia’s unpiloted ISS Progress 77 (77P) cargo craft (Progress MS-16) undocked from the International Space Station while attached to the Pirs docking compartment at 6:55 a.m. EDT, July 26, 2021. Credit: Roscosmos/NASA TV. Screenshot: SpaceUpClose

Photos of the historic Pirs undocking event were taken by Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy

“#Pirs was launched in 2001 being one of the ISS long-livers. It has worked as part of the Russian segment for almost 20 years. The module, built by #RSCEnergia, was used as an additional berthing port for Soyuz and Progress vehicles, as well as an airlock for spacewalks,” tweeted Roscosmos.

Here’s a cool undocking video from Roscosmos and Oleg Novitskiy:

“A small video to your news feed: undocking of the #Pirs module from the International @Space_Station.”

“Goodbye Pirs!” Novitskiy tweeted with more photos of the undocking

“Thank you for the 20 years of work as part of the Russian segment of the @Space_Station. During its operation, the module was used as a docking compartment for the Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, as well as for spacewalks from the Russian segment of the station.”

About four hours later the Progress 77 supply ship fired its maneuvering thrusters for a deorbit burn to place it on course for destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere and harmlessly burn up over the south Pacific.

Pirs departure photo from ISS ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet on July 26, 2021 for destructive reentry into Earths atmosphere

The Progress 77 mission launched and docked to the space station in February delivering more than a ton of cargo to the Expedition 65 crew.

Russia’s ISS Progress 77 (77P) cargo craft (Progress MS-16) is pictured docked to the Pirs docking compartment on the station’s Russian segment prior to undocking on July 26, 2021. Credit: Roscosmos

It’s been years in the making but Russia finally launched the “Nauka” science module to the International Space Station on July 21– marking their biggest addition since the early days of the Earth orbiting outpost and one that will significantly  enhance cosmonaut research and capabilities.

The uncrewed Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) “Nauka” successfully and safely achieved orbit following launch at 10:58 a.m. EDT (1458 GMT, 7:58 p.m. Baikonur time) on a Proton-M rocket from Launch Pad 39 at Site 200 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, July 21.

Russian “Nauka” Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) launches on Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 10:58 a.m. EDT on July 21, 2021. Credit: Roscosmos

With the port on the Earth-facing side of the Russian segment station vacated by the departure of Pirs and Progress, Russia’s Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) is scheduled to dock at the station Thursday, July 29.

Named Nauka, after the Russian word for “science,” MLM launched on July 21 and will serve as a new science facility, docking port, and spacewalk airlock for future operations.

Labeled diagram of Nauka science module from Roscosmos. Credit: Roscosmos/NASA

The long delayed pressurized Nauka module was originally planned for liftoff in 2007 and is a back up vehicle based on the Zarya Functional Cargo Block module

The 11 meter long European Robotic Arm (ERA) provided by the European Space Agency (ESA) is also aboard mounted externally for robotic operations.

Cosmonauts will maneuver the ERA from the Russian segment of the ISS as the main manipulator on the Russian part of the Space Station. Its seven joints can handle multi-tonne payloads with a large range of motion for assembly tasks.

More Pirs departure photos from ISS ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquat:

Interviews about the ISS events and Starliner rollout and the importance of the mission were featured on Fox 35 Orlando on July 26, WFTV ABC 9 News Orlando on July 22 & 23 and WESH 2 NBC News Orlando on July 18 & 19.

https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/nasa-boeing-prepare-for-second-run-at-starlink-launch

https://www.wftv.com/news/failure-is-not-an-option-nasa-boeing-prepare-2nd-flight-test-starliner-craft/828353ee-80fb-4c72-a6ed-b4514acd892e/

https://www.wesh.com/article/boeing-starliner-now-in-brevard-prepares-for-test-flight-redo/37067233

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