July 14, 2024

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NASA astronauts take spacewalks to provide space station power upgrades

The space station is preparing for more power upgrades as two NASA astronauts took their first spacewalk of the year on Tuesday.

Astronauts Kayla Barron and Raja Chari rebounded and exited the space station to begin some installation around 8:12 a.m. ET and finished their spacewalk at 3:06 p.m. ET. Live coverage has begun on NASA TV and website At 6:30 a.m. ET, the spacewalk lasted six hours and 54 minutes.

This was the 247th spacewalk to support the assembly, maintenance, and modernization of the space station.

The space-based duo has assembled and installed modification kits that will allow for future solar array upgrades outside the space station. Barron and Chari installed the struts and brackets that will be used to support the arrival of more ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or iROSAs.

While in the spacewalk, Barron was EV Crew Member 1 wearing the red striped suit and Chari was identified as EVA Crew Member 2 in the striped suit. This was Barron’s second career in space after she completed her first flight in December and the first in Shari’s career.

Two of the iROSAs were put in place during previous spacewalks, and once all the arrays are installed, six of the space station’s eight power channels are expected to increase, raising the available supply from 160 kW to 215 kW.

Six of the solar arrays arrived at the space station on June 5 after being launched on the 22nd SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply mission. The mats are draped like carpet and are 750 lb (340 kg) wide and 10 ft (3 m) wide. Four more arrays will be delivered during a future mission.

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While the space station’s current solar arrays are still operational, they have been powering the space station for more than 20 years and are showing some signs of wear after long-term exposure to the space environment. Arrays were originally designed to last 15 years.

The new solar arrays will be placed in front of the existing arrays. It’s also a good test for the new solar arrays because this same design will power parts of the lunar outpost Gateway, which will help humans return to the moon through NASA’s Artemis Program.

The agency is preparing for its second spacewalk on March 23, starting at 8:50 a.m. ET.

Although the crew members have not yet been announced, they will be responsible for making a number of installation upgrades, including replacing the external cam and placing hoses on the radiator beam valve unit that directs ammonia through the station’s heat rejection radiators to maintain it the proper temperature.

International cooperation in space

The space station is about to be a hub of activity, as a new Russian crew is set to blast off to the International Space Station on Friday, joining four Americans, one European and two Russians already on board.

On March 30, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hee is scheduled to return to Earth with Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Peter Dubrov.

NASA said Monday that Vande Hee will return from the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft as previously planned. The space agency sought to reaffirm Monday that it is still working closely with Russia’s Rokosmos space agency on the International Space Station, despite escalating geopolitical tensions.

NASA says the Americans aboard the International Space Station will surely return aboard a Russian rocket.

Vande Hee, which blasted off to the International Space Station in April 2021, will land aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan, as usual. NASA officials have not stated that there will be any significant changes to plans to return Vande Hee to the United States after landing. He will travel home via Gulfstream, as other American astronauts before him have done.

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For nearly a decade, Russian Soyuz vehicles were the only means of transporting astronauts to and from the space station. But that dependence ended after SpaceX launched its Crew Dragon capsule in 2020, and the United States restored human spaceflight capabilities.

Joint operations between NASA and Roscosmos at the Russian facilities in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, “are continuing well,” according to Joel Montalbano, program manager for NASA’s International Space Station. “I can definitely tell you, Mark [Vande Hei] On board the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, Montalbano said Monday.