Russia's largest space laboratory yet launched into orbit Wednesday (July 21) on a mission to expand the International Space Station after 14 years of delays.
The Russian Multipurpose Research Module (MLM), also known as Nauka, blasted off toward the International Space Station at 10:58 EDT (14:58 UTC) atop a Proton-M rocket from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch was a longtime coming for Nauka, which was originally slated to launch in 2007.
“Engine start and lift-off. A module named Science takes flight to the International Space Station!” NASA commentator Rob Navias said just as the rocket lifted off the launch pad, sending the 22-ton (20-tonne) Nauka module toward the space station.
The module, carrying the European Robotic Arm (ERA), a new robotic appendage designed to service the Russian segment of the space station, successfully separated from the launcher 580 seconds after liftoff.
"T+9:40 min after the liftoff, the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module separated nominally from the Proton-M carrier rocket 3rd stage!” Russia's Space Agency Roscosmos confirmed the successful separation in a tweet that was later taken offline. "It is now beginning its 8-day autonomous flight to the ISS."