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Things are about to get busy on the International Space Station as the first of a series of year-end spacewalks kicked off Tuesday morning.
First-time astronauts and NASA astronauts Josh Casada and Frank Rubio began their journey outside the space station at 9:14 a.m. ET, with live coverage on NASA website. The event is expected to last about seven hours.
Casada wears the red-striped space suit as EV crew member 1, while Rubio wears the unmarked suit as EV crew member 2.
The astronauts will assemble a mounting bracket on the right side of the space station brace. The hardware to be installed during the spacewalk was delivered to the space station on November 9 aboard Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft, which safely delivered its payload. Although only one of the two solar arrays was deployed after launch.
This hardware will allow more solar arrays, called iROSAs, to be installed to give the space station a boost. The first of two solar arrays will be installed outside the station in June 2021. A total of six iROSAs are planned and are likely to boost power generation on the space station by more than 30% once all are ready to go.
during Two more spacewalks on November 28 and December 1. A crew of astronauts will unfold and install another pair of solar arrays once the stabilizer is in place. The solar arrays will be delivered on SpaceX Dragon’s next commercial resupply mission, currently scheduled for launch on November 21st.
Spacewalks are part of the routine for space station crews as they maintain and update the aging orbiting laboratory, but Tuesday’s spacewalk was NASA’s first since March. The agency’s spacewalks were halted after an astronaut from the European Space Agency Matthias Maurer completed his first spacewalk with water in his helmet.
A thin layer of moisture that exceeded the normal amount expected was detected in Maurer’s helmet once he returned to the airlock after nearly seven hours of spacewalk. Maurer quickly shed the helmet, in an event NASA deemed a “close call,” and water samples, suit equipment, and the spacesuit itself were returned to Earth for investigation. NASA officials determined that the suit did not experience any hardware failures.
“The cause of the water in the helmet is likely due to the performance of the integrated system as many variables such as crew effort and crew cooling settings generated relatively larger amounts of condensation within the system,” according to NASA in a statement. Blog post update.
“Based on the findings, the team has updated operational procedures and developed new mitigation devices to reduce scenarios where integrated performance leads to water buildup, while absorbing any water that appears. These measures will help contain any liquid in the helmet to continue to keep the crew safe.”
NASA officials have given the “go” to resuming spacewalks after completing a review in October.
The investigation team has developed technologies to manage temperatures in the suit and added new absorbent straps to the helmet, said Dina Kontella, operations integration manager for the International Space Station Program.
Thin orange pieces were placed in various parts of the helmet, which had already been tested in orbit by astronauts inside the space station.
“We took a few different models of this and the crew on top of the water sloshed around, basically trying to inject water into the helmet at the same rate that would be kind of worst and worst case. And we found that these pads were very effective,” Contella said.
Tuesday’s spacewalk will allow the crew to test the new pads as they work outside the space station before a more complex spacewalk to install the solar array within the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Russian spacewalk is scheduled to take place on Thursday. Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petlin will begin their walk at 9 a.m. ET to work out of the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module. The duo will prepare the coolant for transfer from the Rassvet module to Nauka during their seven-hour spacewalk, which will also be broadcast live on NASA’s website.
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