Astronauts embark on a spacewalk to increase the power of the ISS

Astronauts embark on a spacewalk to increase the power of the ISS

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The International Space Station will receive its second boost of solar power in a month during a spacewalk on Thursday. The event comes after a stray piece of space junk interfered with plans to conduct the spacewalk on Wednesday.

NASA was forced to implement a 24-hour delay so the space station could fire its thrusters to get away from the debris, which was identified as a fragment of a old russian rocket. Near collisions in space are commonas low Earth orbit, the area the ISS orbits, is becoming increasingly congested with satellites and space junk.

“The crew is in no immediate danger,” NASA said in a blog post Wednesday.

The spacewalk began around 8:30 a.m. ET Thursday and is expected to last about seven hours. Live coverage began at 7 a.m. ET on NASA web site.

NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio are working to install a solar array outside the floating laboratory. Rubio plays Extravehicular Crew 1 and wears a red striped outfit, while Cassada wears an unmarked white outfit as Extravehicular Crew 2.

Thursday’s spacewalk is one of many aimed at installing deployable solar arrays, called iROSA, to boost electrical power on the space station.

The first two deployable solar panels were installed outside the station in June 2021. The plan is to add six iROSAs, which will likely increase the space station’s power generation by more than 30% once all are operational.

Two more arrays were delivered to the space station on November 27 aboard SpaceX Dragon’s 26th commercial resupply mission, which also brought dwarf tomato seeds and other experiments to the orbiting laboratory. Rolled up like a carpet, the arrays weigh 750 pounds (340 kilograms) each and are 10 feet (3 meters) wide.

Cassada and Rubio already installed one outside the space station during a Dec. 3 spacewalk.

During Thursday’s spacewalk, the two will install a solar array to increase capacity in one of the space station’s eight power channels, located in its port armor.

Once the array is unfolded and glued into place, it will be about 63 feet (19 meters) long and 20 feet (6 meters) wide.

The original solar arrays on the space station still work, but they have been providing power for more than 20 years and are showing signs of wear and tear. after long-term exposure to the space environment. The arrays were originally designed to last 15 years.

Erosion can be caused by propellant plumes, which come from both the station’s propellants and those of crew and cargo vehicles traveling to and from the station, as well as micrometeorite debris.

The new solar panels are being placed in front of the original ones. It’s a good test because equipment using this same design will power parts of the planned Gateway lunar outpost, which will help humans return to the Moon via NASA’s Artemis program.

The new arrays will have a similar life expectancy of 15 years. However, since the degradation of the original arrays was expected to be worse, the team will monitor the new to test their longevity because they can last longer.

While American spaceflights continue, Russian flights by cosmonauts aboard the space station are on hold after the discovery of a coolant leak the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraftwhich is attached to the Russian segment of the space station.

The leak was found on December 14 before a planned spacewalk by Roscosmos, when liquid began to leak from the Soyuz.

The Soyuz’s external radiator cooling loop is the suspected source of the leak, according to a Dec. 15 report. update from NASA.

Although the space station crew remained safe, the leak investigation is ongoing. NASA is expected to give an update on the issue Thursday at 11 a.m. ET.

Soyuz MS-22 carried NASA’s Rubio and two Russian cosmonauts to the space station on September 21 and is scheduled to return them to Earth in March.

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