Astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio spent seven hours outside the International Space Station on Thursday, successfully installing a fourth set of solar panel blankets in an ongoing $103 million power system upgrade.
“You did an outstanding job today,” said Nick Hague from mission control over the radio. “You made it easy and routine… There are many people who are very happy that their vacation plans are still safe!”
“We’re incredibly happy that this is the case,” Rubio said, laughing inside the space station’s airlock.
Cassada joked: “Frank and I will take some time off.”
Meanwhile, senior station managers said Russia is keeping open the possibility of launching a new Soyuz crew ferry ship to replace an almost identical vessel currently moored at the station. experiencing a major coolant leak last week.
However, the final decision is not expected to be made by the engineers. complete your analysis Image of a small hole in the Soyuz MS-22/68S spacecraft. The damage and ensuing coolant leak were apparently caused by a micrometeoroid or space debris impact last week that ruptured a radiator coolant line.
If engineers conclude that the damaged Soyuz will not be able to safely transport its three-man crew back to Earth as planned in late March, a Soyuz, scheduled to carry spares to the space station, could be transported several weeks ahead and launched without a crew on board. The damaged Soyuz would make a pilotless return to Earth for additional analysis.
Under this scenario, it is unclear when Soyuz MS-22/68S commander Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin, and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio will arrive home or when their backups may be launched.
Back on the ISS, Cassada and Rubio turned their spacesuits to battery power at 8:19 a.m. Thursday, officially launching the 257th spacewalk devoted to station assembly and maintenance, and the 12th this year.
The purpose of the trip was to install the second of two ISS Roll-Out Solar Array blankets – IROSAs – that were transported to the space station on a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship on November 22.
The station is equipped with four huge rotating solar wings, two at each end of a beam stretching the length of a football field. Each of the four wings consists of two sets of solar cells extending in opposite directions from a central core.
Eight sets of blankets supply electricity to eight main circuits or power channels to run lab systems and charge batteries in daylight. The stored battery power is used when the station is in orbital darkness.
The power system needs to be upgraded, as the first original equipment cover set, located at the left end of the station’s power switch, has been in space for more than 20 years. Subsequent wings were added in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
All have suffered years of degradation in the harsh space environment and do not generate as much power as when they were new. In a major upgrade, NASA is installing smaller but more powerful IROSA shrouds to increase the output of the original equipment shrouds.
The first two IROSA blankets were placed on the left-side outboard arrays (the oldest set on the station) during spacewalks in 2021. Cassada and Rubio have performed two previous spacewalks to attach the mounting brackets, and one of the two new IROSAs has performed on the right. side inner flap to increase power channel 3A.
During Thursday’s excursion, the second new IROSA was fitted to an internal left-hand array to power power channel 4A. A final set of IROSA is scheduled to be delivered to the station next year.
IROSA blankets are about half the size of the original arrays, but they are more efficient and will eventually produce an additional 120 kilowatts of power. They are designed to be mounted on brackets at the base of an existing wing that extends outward at a 10 degree angle to minimize the shadow they cast on the array below.
Once all six roll-out arrays are installed, total power generation will be increased by 20 to 30 percent, roughly equivalent to the output of the original series when new.
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