Spacewalkers Continue International Space Station Power Upgrade

Astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio spent seven hours outside the International Space Station on Thursday, successfully installing a fourth set of deployed solar blankets as part of an ongoing 103 power system upgrade millions of dollars.

“Outstanding job today,” Nick Hague said over the radio from Mission Control. “You made it look easy and routine…You have a lot of people who are very happy that their vacation plans are still safe!”

“We’re incredibly happy that’s the case,” Rubio said with a laugh, back inside the space station’s airlock.

Cassada joked, “Frank and I are going to take some time off.”

Josh Cassada, left, and Frank Rubio prepare rolled-up solar panel covers for installation aboard the International Space Station as the laboratory complex approaches the southwest coast of Africa. / Credit: NASA TV

Senior station officials, meanwhile, said Russia was leaving open the possibility of launching a replacement Soyuz crew ship to replace a virtually identical craft now docked at the station. which suffered a major coolant leak Last week.

But a final decision is not expected until engineers complete your analysis of a small hole in the Soyuz MS-22/68S spacecraft. The damage and subsequent coolant leak was apparently caused by a micrometeoroid or space debris impact last week that ruptured a radiator coolant line.

If engineers conclude that the damaged Soyuz cannot safely return its three-man crew to Earth as planned in late March, a Soyuz planned to carry their replacements to the space station could be moved a few weeks and launched without a crew on board. . The damaged Soyuz would make an unpiloted return to Earth for further analysis.

In this scenario, it’s unclear when Soyuz MS-22/68S commander Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitry Petelin, and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio would return home, or when their replacements might be launched.

Back on the ISS, Cassada and Rubio put their spacesuits on battery power at 8:19 a.m. EST Thursday, officially kicking off the 257th spacewalk dedicated to assembly and maintenance. of the station, and the 12th this year.

The purpose of the excursion was to install the second of two ISS Roll-Out Solar Array – IROSA – covers that were transported to the space station aboard a SpaceX Dragon freighter on November 22.

The station is equipped with four huge rotating solar wings, two at each end of a truss spanning the length of a football field. Each of the four wings is made up of two sets of solar cells extending in opposite directions from a central hub.

The new ISS Roll-Out Solar Array (IROSA) covers roll out after installation, stretching out in front of an original equipment array in the background.  The new IROSA blankets are smaller than the space station's original solar wings, but they are more efficient and will eventually generate an additional 120 kilowatts of power.  / Credit: NASA TV

The new ISS Roll-Out Solar Array (IROSA) covers roll out after installation, stretching out in front of an original equipment array in the background. The new IROSA blankets are smaller than the space station’s original solar wings, but they are more efficient and will eventually generate an additional 120 kilowatts of power. / Credit: NASA TV

The eight sets of blankets supply electricity to eight main circuits, or power channels, during the day to run the lab’s systems and recharge the batteries. Stored battery power is used when the station is in orbital darkness.

The power system needs an upgrade as the first set of original equipment covers, located at the left end of the powerhouse power truss, have been in space for over 20 year. Later wings were added in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

All have suffered from years of degradation in the harsh space environment, and they don’t generate as much power as they did when new. As part of a major upgrade, NASA is installing the smaller but more powerful IROSA covers to increase the performance of the original equipment covers.

The first two IROSA covers were installed on the left outer bays – the oldest on the station – during spacewalks in 2021. Cassada and Rubio performed two earlier spacewalks to install mounting brackets, and one of two new IROSAs on the right-side inner wing to increase the 3A power channel.

During Thursday’s excursion, the second new IROSA was attached to a left inner array to augment the 4A power channel. A final batch of IROSA should be delivered to the station next year.

IROSA covers are about half the size of the original arrays, but they are more efficient and will eventually generate an additional 120 kilowatts of power. They were designed to be mounted on brackets at the base of an existing wing, extending outwards at a 10 degree angle to minimize the shadow they cast on the board below.

Once all six deployment bays are installed, the overall power output will be increased by 20-30%, roughly matching the output of the original bays when new.

New York Congressman-elect George Santos is under investigation over reports of false claims

Congress attempts to wrap up year with spending bill, January 6 report

Advice for holidaymakers as bad weather disrupts airports and roads

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *