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Things are about to get busy on the International Space Station as the first in a series of year-end spacewalks kicked off on Tuesday morning.
Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio, NASA’s first spacewalkers and astronauts, began their excursion outside the space station at 9:14 a.m. ET, with live coverage on the NASA website. The event is expected to last approximately seven hours.
Cassada wears the red-striped spacesuit as Extravehicular Crewman 1, while Rubio wears the unmarked spacesuit as Extravehicular Crewman 2.
Astronauts will assemble a mounting bracket on the starboard side of the space station truss. The hardware that will be installed during the spacewalk was delivered to the space station Nov. 9 aboard a Cygnus spacecraft from Northrop Grumman, which delivered its cargo safely despite deploying only one of its two solar panels after launch.
This hardware will allow for the installation of more deployment solar panels, called iROSAs, to give the space station a boost of power. The first two deployment solar panels were installed outside the station in June 2021. A total of six iROSAs have been planned and will likely increase the space station’s power generation by more than 30% once everything is up and running.
During two more spacewalks on November 28 and December 1, a crew of two astronauts will roll out and install another pair of solar panels once the mounting hardware is in place. The solar panels will be delivered on the next SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply mission, which is currently scheduled to launch on November 21.
Spacewalks are routine for the space station crew as they maintain and upgrade the aging orbital laboratory, but Tuesday’s spacewalk is NASA’s first since March. The agency’s spacewalks came to a halt after European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer completed his first spacewalk with water in his helmet.
A thin layer of moisture that exceeded the normal amount expected was discovered in Maurer’s helmet once he returned to the airlock after a nearly seven-hour spacewalk. Maurer promptly discarded the helmet, in an event NASA considered “a close call”, and water samples, suit material and the spacesuit itself were returned to Earth for investigation. NASA officials have determined that the suit did not suffer any hardware failure.
“The cause of the water in the helmet was likely due to the performance of the integrated system where several variables such as crew effort and crew cooling parameters led to the generation of comparatively greater amounts of condensation. larger than normal in the system,” according to NASA in a blog post. after the update.
“Based on the results, the team updated operational procedures and developed new mitigation material to minimize scenarios where the built-in performance results in water accumulation, while absorbing any water that appears. These measures will help contain any liquid in the helmet to continue to ensure the safety of the crew.
NASA officials gave the ‘go’ for spacewalks to resume after concluding the review in October.
The survey team developed techniques to manage temperatures in the suit and added new absorption bands to the helmet, said Dina Contella, operations integration manager for the International Space Station program.
The thin orange pieces were placed in different parts of the helmet, which has already been tested in orbit by astronauts inside the space station.
“We took several different models of this and the crew on board ran water, basically trying to inject water into the helmet at the same rate, which would be kind of the worst case scenario. And we found these pads to be very, very effective,” Contella said.
Tuesday’s spacewalk will allow the crew to test out the new pads while they work outside the space station before more complex spacewalks of installing solar panels in both next weeks.
Meanwhile, a Russian spacewalk is due to take place on Thursday. Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin will begin their walk at 9 a.m. ET to work outside the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module. The duo will prepare a radiator for the transfer of the Rassvet module to Nauka during their seven-hour spacewalk, which will also be streamed live on NASA’s website.
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