Two components of the Russian side of the International Space Station have come a step closer to robotic relocation after two cosmonauts spacewalked to prepare parts for their relocation.
Expedition 68 commander Sergey Prokopyev and flight engineer Dmitry Petelin, both from the Russian federal space company Roskosmos, conducted a six-hour, 25-minute EVA (extravehicular activity) on Thursday (November 17) to install an airlock and cooler for to prepare the transfer from one airlock Russian module to another. The hardware was launched on the station aboard a NASA space shuttle 12 years ago and is now being repositioned to support a newer module.
Prokopyev and Petelin departed the station’s space-facing Poisk module at 9:39 a.m. EST (1439 GMT) to begin the first of four planned spacewalks in support of the movements. The cosmonauts’ work focused primarily on freeing the radiator, which is used to dissipate heat and will be robotically moved during the next EVA, scheduled for November 25.
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The astronauts began their tasks by installing an adapter on a so-called flight-detachable tether on the airlock, currently attached to Russia’s mini-research module Rassvet on the station’s earth-facing side. Next, they maneuvered and opened valves to bleed nitrogen in the hydraulic circuits supporting a radiator also housed on the outside of Rassvet.
Prokopyev and Petelin completed this work promptly and without issue, addressing the removal of six radiator brackets that had been present since the component was launched with Rassvet aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis’ STS-132 mission in 2010. The two also installed a bracket on the Strela boom — an extension used by spacefarers to move between modules — to allow a footrest and other gear to be mounted to aid in the cooler’s relocation process.
Prokopyev and Petelin’s final major task during the spacewalk was to install a “large object mounting system” on Nauka’s multipurpose laboratory module, where the airlock will be mounted during an EVA scheduled for Dec 6, two spacewalks from today trip away. During installation there was talk of hitting the panel with a hammer.
“It looks like we won’t need the hammer,” Prokopyev said.
“Yeah, looks like we’re lucky and don’t need the hammer,” Petelin replied.
“Well I was super excited to bang away in space!” answered Prokopyev.
“Well, you know, next week, next EVA, we’re going to be unplugging and dismantling the old cooler, so we’re going to take whatever tools we have. So you might still have a chance,” Petelin said.
Expedition 68 flight engineer Anna Kikina, the only woman in Roscosmos’ active cosmonaut corps, is scheduled to move both the airlock and cooler from a control panel located inside the space station using the recently added 36-foot-long (11-meter) European robotic arm.
Prokopyev and Petelin re-entered the space station at 4:07 p.m. EST (2107 GMT).
Thursday’s EVA was Prokopyev’s third and Petelin’s first. Prokopyev has now logged 21 hours and 56 minutes on his three spacewalks.
The EVA was the 10th for the year, the second of at least seven planned missions by the International Space Station’s current Expedition 68, and the 255th since 1998 to support assembly and maintenance of the ISS.
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