Two Expedition 50 astronauts are in final preparations for the first of two power maintenance spacewalks that starts Friday at 7 a.m. EST. Astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson will stow and replace power gear during the first 6.5 hour spacewalk. The duo will work near the solar arrays on the starboard truss segment.
The two spacewalkers will be assisted by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet and cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy from inside the International Space Station. Pesquet will conduct the second spacewalk Jan. 13 with Kimbrough to wrap up the battery installation work. The majority of the complex power upgrade work was done by controllers on the ground remotely using the Canadarm2 robotic arm and hand.
The three cosmonauts worked on an array of station maintenance tasks and advanced space experiments. Cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov researched how blood flow and respiration is affected by living in space. Novitskiy explored the station’s magnetic field and how it affects navigation.
The crew is getting ready for a pair of spacewalks scheduled for this Friday and next Friday to upgrade the International Space Station’s power system. The two spacewalks will take place on the station’s right-side, or starboard, truss structure to replace and install new power equipment.
Robotics controllers remotely removed nickel-hydrogen batteries and installed new lithium-ion batteries on the starboard-4 truss over the holidays and into the New Year. The robotics work sets up the power maintenance work the spacewalkers will perform including replacing adapter plates and relocating the old batteries.
The three astronauts and their fellow cosmonauts still had time for a variety of science work and standard orbital maintenance. Kimbrough and Whitson explored how microgravity affects body shape and impacts suit sizing. Pesquet joined Andrey Borisenko and set up tiny internal satellites known as SPHERES for an upcoming student competition. Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Oleg Novitskiy checked Russian life support systems.
In a remarkable demonstration of robotic prowess, ground controllers used the Canadian-built “Dextre” Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator over the weekend to install three new lithium-ion batteries in the International Space Station’s 3A power channel Integrated Electronics Assembly (IEA) pallet on the starboard 4 truss. Dextre also removed four old nickel-hydrogen batteries from the IEA, three of which were stowed on the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle’s external pallet to wrap up the first act of a complex procedure to upgrade the station’s power system. A fourth old battery was temporarily stowed on a platform on Dextre.
This clears the way for the first of two spacewalks Friday in which Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA will install three adapter plates in slots on the IEA to which three of the old nickel-hydrogen batteries will be mounted to remain on the ISS but will be dormant. In all, nine nickel-hydrogen batteries will be stowed on the external pallet for disposal when the HTV is deorbited to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere late this month.
Three additional new lithium-ion batteries flown to the ISS aboard the HTV will be robotically installed in the starboard truss’ 1A power channel Integrated Electronics Assembly between Friday’s spacewalk and a second spacewalk scheduled Jan. 13 for Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency. Five additional nickel-hydrogen batteries will be removed robotically from the IEA prior to the second spacewalk.
A briefing to preview the two spacewalks and to review all of the robotics work will be broadcast on NASA Television on Wednesday, Jan. 4 at 2 p.m. Eastern time.