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The first of a series of year-end spacewalks began Tuesday morning outside the International Space Station.
First-time astronauts and NASA astronauts Josh Casada and Frank Rubio began their journey outside the space station at 9:14 a.m. ET and ended at 4:25 p.m. ET, lasting 7 hours and 11 minutes.
Casada wore the red-striped space suit as extravehicle 1, while Rubio wore the unmarked suit as extravehicular 2.
The astronauts assembled a mounting bracket on the right side of the space station bracket against a backdrop of stunning views of Earth.
The equipment was delivered to the space station on November 9 aboard Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft, which safely delivered its payload. Although only one of the two solar arrays was deployed after launch.
This device will allow more solar arrays, called iROSAs, to be installed to give the space station a boost. The first two solar arrays were installed outside the station in June 2021. A total of six iROSA devices are planned and are likely to boost power generation at the space station by more than 30% once all ready to work.
during Two more spacewalks On November 28 and December 1, a crew of astronauts will open and install another pair of solar arrays once the stabilizer is in place. The solar arrays will be delivered on SpaceX Dragon’s next commercial resupply mission, currently scheduled for launch on November 21.
Spacewalks are part of the routine for space station crews as they maintain and update the aging orbiting laboratory, but Tuesday’s spacewalk was NASA’s first since March. The agency’s spacewalks have been halted after an ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer finished his first space walk with water in his helmet.
A thin layer of moisture that exceeded the expected normal amount was detected in Maurer’s helmet as soon as he returned to the airlock after nearly seven hours of spacewalking. Maurer quickly tossed the helmet, in an event that NASA deemed a “close call,” and water samples, suit equipment, and the spacesuit itself were returned to Earth for investigation. NASA officials determined that the suit did not experience any hardware failures.
“It is likely that the cause of the water in the helmet is due to the performance of the integrated system as several variables such as crew effort and crew cooling settings generated relatively larger amounts of condensation within the system,” according to NASA at Blog post update.
“Based on the findings, the team has updated operational procedures and developed new mitigation devices to reduce scenarios where integrated performance leads to water buildup, while absorbing any water that appears. These procedures will help contain any fluid in the helmet to continue to keep the crew safe.”
NASA officials gave a “launch” to resuming spacewalks after completing a review in October.
Dina Contella, director of operations integration for the International Space Station program, said the investigation team developed techniques to manage temperatures in the suit and added new absorbent tapes to the helmet.
Thin orange pieces were placed in different parts of the helmet, which have already been tested in orbit by astronauts inside the space station.
“We took several different models of this, and the crew on the back of the water running around it, basically tried to inject water into the helmet at the same rate that would be kind of worst and worst case. And we found that these pads were very effective,” Contella said.
Tuesday’s spacewalk allowed the crew to test the new pads as they work outside the space station before a more complex spacewalk to install the solar array within the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Russian spacewalk is scheduled for Thursday. Cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitriy Petlin will begin their walk at 9 a.m. ET to work outside the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory module. The duo will prepare the cooler for transfer from the Rassvet module to Nauka during their seven-hour spacewalk, which will also be broadcast live on NASA’s website.
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