Friday, March 31, 2017

Spacewalkers Successfully Connect Adapter for Commercial Crew Vehicles

Astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson work to remove the cover on PMA-3 during EVA-41 to prepare it for next year’s arrival of IDA-3. Photo Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA concluded their spacewalk at 2:33 p.m. EDT on Mar. 30. During the spacewalk, which lasted just over seven hours, the two astronauts successfully reconnected cables and electrical connections on the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3. PMA-3 will provide the pressurized interface between the station and the second of two international docking adapters to be delivered to the complex to support the dockings of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft in the future.

The duo were also tasked with installing four thermal protection shields on the Tranquility module of the International Space Station. The shields were required to cover the port where the PMA-3 was removed earlier in the week and robotically installed on the Harmony module. During the spacewalk, one of the shields was inadvertently lost. The loss posed no immediate danger to the astronauts and Kimbrough and Whitson went on to successfully install the remaining shields on the common berthing mechanism port.

A team from the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston devised a plan for the astronauts to finish covering the port with the PMA-3 cover Whitson removed earlier in the day. The plan worked, and the cover was successfully installed, providing thermal protection and micrometeoroid and orbital debris cover for the port.

“From the moment we realized the shield had escaped to the time we had it fixed was about 2 hours and 20 minutes,” said John Mularski, the lead EVA officer.

To round out the spacewalk, Kimbrough and Whitson also installed a different shield around the base of the PMA-3 adapter for micrometeoroid protection. The shield was nicknamed a cummerbund as it fits around the adapter similar to a tuxedo’s cummerbund worn around the waist.

“Using the cover was pretty obvious, but knowing we were going to be able to find a way to securely tether it so that we wouldn’t constrain any further ISS operations - that part was not at all obvious,” said Mission Control Flight Director Emily Nelson.

Having completed her eighth spacewalk, Whitson now holds the record for the most spacewalks and accumulated time spacewalking by a female astronaut.

Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 1,243 hours and 42 minutes outside the station during 199 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory.

Credit: NASA

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