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Prichal to open door for future space stations

Scheduled to lift off on Wednesday, the Prichal Node Module, UM, was designed for the Russian Segment of the International Space Station, but it could also serve as a hub of the future new orbital base. The Prichal will be attached to the MLM Nauka module, providing five extra docking ports to the Russian Segment and testing architecture for potentially permanent settlements in space.

Previous chapter: The MLM Nauka module


Node Module at a glance (328):

Liftoff mass (with Progress-MS space tug)
7,290 kilograms
In-orbit mass
4,000 kilograms
Pressurized volume
14 cubic meters
Cargo to be delivered with the module
Between 500 and 700 kilograms
Number of docking ports
Launch vehicle
Soyuz-2-1b (14S53) No. S15000-054
Payload fairing
81 KS-UM 1000-0 No. T 15000-001
Launch date
2021 Nov. 24
ISS docking date
2021 Nov. 26
Launch site

insider content

Stuck on the ground: History of UM development (INSIDER CONTENT)

In the mid-2000s, financial problems forced the Russian space agency to redesign its segment of the International Space Station, ISS. After considering various options, engineers at RKK Energia, the nation's prime contractor in the ISS project, proposed to add a new element called "Uzlovoi Modul," UM for short, or Node Module in English. The spacecraft was later dubbed Prichal - a Russian for "pier."


New Prichal module mulled (INSIDER CONTENT)

Russian engineers proposed building a second Prichal module despite the fact that the first copy of the critical component, slated to launch late in 2021, was originally expected to last up to 30 years, serving as the structural core of the Russian outpost succeeding the ISS. The fresh version of Prichal will incorporate major engineering lessons learned during the first attempt.

design Prichal's ingenious design (INSIDER CONTENT)

Despite its small size, this four-ton, ball-shaped structure got to play an important role in the Russian space program. The primary task of the Node Module was to accommodate a pair of Science and Power Modules, NEMs, which were intended to replace the canceled Science and Power Platform, NEP. However, the Node was also conceived to serve as the only permanent element of the future Russian successor to the ISS, if required.


Prichal's docking mechanisms (INSIDER CONTENT)

Prichal is the closest Russian engineers got to implementing the plug-in-play concept in space station design. Known to developers as Article 573GK , the Prichal features six reconfigurable docking ports facing in every direction, allowing space architects to add and subtract other modules as needed.

Prichal's redocking system (INSIDER CONTENT)

The launch of Prichal is the first step toward the revival of a unique redocking system first introduced aboard the Mir space station. This exotic mechanism was designed for moving massive modules between the multiple docking ports of the orbital base without use of propulsion or complex robotic arms.



interior UM interior (INSIDER CONTENT)

Thanks to its considerably larger diameter than that of the transfer compartments aboard the Core Module of the Mir space station and the Zvezda Service Module, Prichal offered a much roomier vestibule at the intersection of multiple modules.

interior Progress M-UM (INSIDER CONTENT)

The Prichal module will use a heavily modified Progress cargo ship for its trip from an initial parking orbit to rendezvous and docking with the station. Once the module is securely connected to the station, the space tug will undock and deorbit.


Prichal's launch campaign

On July 31, 2021, the Prichal and its Progress M-UM space tug were shipped to Baikonur by rail, after completion of joint tests with the simulators of the Nauka and the Zvezda modules, according to Roskosmos. The shipment to Baikonur also took place immediately after the docking of the Nauka module with the ISS.


Prichal arrives at ISS

The Prichal lifted off from Kazakhstan as ascheduled on Nov. 24, 2021, at 16:06 Moscow Time. The spacecraft followed a two-day rendezvous profile with the outpost, docking at the nadir (Earth-facing) port of the Nauka module on November 26.

node Integrating Prichal with ISS (INSIDER CONTENT)

Russian specialists are preparing for a complex choreography of adding yet another piece to the Russian Segment of the International Space Station, just four months after the docking of the Nauka module at the orbital outpost.


VKD-51 spacewalk (INSIDER CONTENT)

The next trip of Russian cosmonauts to the exterior of the International Space Station, ISS, is dedicated to the yet-to-be-launched Prichal Node Module. Anton Shkaplerov and Petr Dubrov will configure the new component of the Russian ISS Segment for receiving incoming transport ships.

All articles and illustrations inside this section by Anatoly Zak unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved

Last update: March 21, 2024