Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Russian Spacewalkers Successfully Upgrade Space Station's Hardware

Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko is seen working outside the International Space Station in a Russian Orlan spacesuit. Credit: NASA TV

Two veteran Russian cosmonauts successfully completed a spacewalk on Monday, Aug. 10, to upgrade hardware placed on the outside of International Space Station’s (ISS). Expedition 44 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) started their extravehicular activity (EVA) by exiting the station’s Pirs airlock at about 10:20 a.m. EDT. The spacewalkers wore Russian Orlan spacesuits bearing blue stripes during their EVA. Padalka was designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV1) and Kornienko was extravehicular crew member 2 (EV2). Other ISS crew members supported their colleagues from on board the orbiting laboratory.

The spacewalk, lasting 5 hours and 31 minutes, was needed to rig new equipment on the Russian segment of the station and to conduct a detailed photographic inspection of the exterior of the orbiting outpost. The cosmonauts have successfully installed the soft rails on the Russian Zvezda service module of the ISS and WAL1-WAL5 antennas fasteners for the inter-board radio connection antenna-feeder device.

The duo also changed the orientation of the pressure and deposition control unit device on Poisk mini-research module (MIM-2) and replaced the aging WAL6 antenna used for the rendezvous and docking of visiting vehicles at Russian docking ports.

Another important objective of the Monday’s spacewalk was to retrieve the Obstanovka Experiment. First deployed in 2013, it studies the interaction between the station and the space plasma environment in low-Earth orbit, as it can affect power supply systems and other external surfaces.

Obstanovka also provides measurements of Earth magnetic field intensity vectors along flight course. The Russian crew dismantled the plasma potential sensor unit of the plasma-and-wave complex designed for this experiment.

The cosmonauts also took samples from solar batteries, the radiator’s panel of the working compartment, and in the area of drainage valves of Air and Electron systems, using the scientific equipment for collecting microorganisms from the ISS surface. They took photographs of the EXPOSE-R scientific equipment and of the Electron system’s fitting. EXPOSE is a multi-user facility mounted outside the ISS dedicated to astrobiology. Its main objective is to better understand the nature and evolution of organic matter present in extraterrestrial environments.

One of the tasks of this spacewalk was to clean and polish the ISS’ windows. As Russian ISS segment flight director Vladimir Solovyov reported earlier, this task is very interesting and important for long-duration space flights preparation since space debris and radiation affect the windows causing various scratches.

Monday’s EVA was postponed several times because of the Proton M-27M accident on Apr. 28 as the lost spacecraft was to deliver the equipment necessary for the spacewalk. The preparations for this EVA started on July 27.

The spacewalk was the 188th in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the 2nd in Kornienko’s career, and the 10th for Gennady Padalka. With the completion of today’s spacewalk crew members have spent some 1,177 hours outside the station – the equivalent of 49 days.

The previous ISS spacewalk was conducted on March 1, 2015, when NASA astronauts Terry Virts and Barry Wilmore finished cable routing, antenna, and retro-reflector installation on both sides of the ISS truss and on other modules in preparation for the installation of the International Docking Adapter at Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA)-2 and 3.

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