The space station is preparing for more power upgrades as two NASA astronauts perform their first spacewalk of the year on Tuesday.
Astronauts Kayla Barron and Raja Chari donned and exited the space station to begin some installation at about 8:12 a.m. ET. Live coverage has begun on NASA TV and website At 6:30 a.m. ET, the spacewalk is expected to last six hours and 30 minutes.
The in-space duo will assemble and install modification kits that will allow future solar array upgrades outside the space station. Barron and Chari will install the struts and brackets that will be used to support the arrival of more ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or iROSAs.
During the spacewalk, Barron will be EVA Crew Member 1 wearing the red striped suit and Chari will be recognized as EVA Crew Member 2 in the striped suit. It’s Barron’s second spacewalk after she completed her first flight in December and the first in Shari’s career.
Two of the iROSAs were put in place during previous spacewalks, and once all the arrays are installed, six of the space station’s eight power channels are expected to increase, raising the available supply from 160 kW to 215 kW.
Six of the solar arrays arrived at the space station on June 5 after being launched on the 22nd SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply mission. The mats are draped like carpet and are 750 lb (340 kg) wide and 10 ft (3 m) wide. Four more matrices will be delivered during a future mission.
While the space station’s current solar arrays are still operational, they have been powering the space station for more than 20 years and are showing some signs of wear after long-term exposure to the space environment. Arrays were originally designed to last 15 years.
The new solar arrays will be placed in front of the existing arrays. It’s also a good test for the new solar arrays because this same design will power parts of the lunar outpost Gateway, which will help humans return to the moon through NASA’s Artemis Program.
The agency is preparing for a second spacewalk on March 23, starting at 8:50 a.m. ET.
Although the crew members have not yet been announced, they will be responsible for making a number of installation upgrades, including replacing the external cam and placing hoses on the radiator beam valve unit that direct ammonia through the station’s heat rejection radiators to maintain it the proper temperature.
International cooperation in space
The space station is about to be a hub of activity, with a new Russian crew set to blast off to the International Space Station on Friday, joining the four Americans, one European and two Rosanne already on board.
On March 30, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hee is scheduled to return to Earth with Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov.
NASA said Monday that Vande Hee will return from the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft as previously planned. The space agency sought to reaffirm Monday that it is still working closely with Russia’s Rokosmos space agency on the International Space Station, despite escalating geopolitical tensions.
Vande Hee, which blasted off to the International Space Station in April 2021, will land aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan, as usual. NASA officials did not say there would be any significant changes to plans to bring Vande Hee back to the United States after landing. He will travel home via Gulfstream, as other American astronauts before him have done.
For nearly a decade, Russian Soyuz vehicles were the only means of transporting astronauts to and from the space station. But that dependence ended after SpaceX launched its Crew Dragon capsule in 2020, and the United States restored human spaceflight capabilities.
Joint operations between NASA and Roscosmos at the Russian facilities in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, “are continuing well,” according to Joel Montalbano, program manager for NASA’s International Space Station. “I can definitely tell you, Mark [Vande Hei] On board the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, Montalbano said Monday.