Astronauts will power up the space station during Saturday’s spacewalk
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The International Space Station will get a power boost during a spacewalk on Saturday, as NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio install a solar array in front of the floating laboratory.
The spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 7:25 a.m. ET and will last about seven hours, with a live stream on NASA’s website.
During the event, Cassada will serve as a crew member for Outer Vehicle 1 and will wear a suit with red stripes, while Rubio will wear an unmarked white suit as Crew Member for Outer Vehicle 2. The duo performed their first spacewalk together in November. Against a backdrop of spectacular views of Earth, the team assembled a mounting bracket on the right side of the space station’s girder.
This hardware allows for the installation of multiple solar arrays, called iROSA, to augment the space station’s electrical power.
The first two deployed solar arrays were installed outside the station in June 2021. The plan is to add a total of six iROSAs, which will likely increase the space station’s power output by more than 30% when all are operational.
Two more arrays were delivered to the space station on November 27 as part of the 26th SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply mission, which also carried dwarf tomato seeds and other experiments to the orbiting laboratory.
The arrays are rolled up like a carpet and are 750 pounds (340 kilograms) and 10 feet (3 meters) wide.
During Saturday’s spacewalk, Cassada and Rubio will install a solar array to increase capacity in one of the space station’s eight power channels, located on the station’s right grid.
When the astronauts deploy the array and secure it in place, it will be about 19 meters long and 20 feet (6 meters) wide.
The spacewalking duo will also disconnect the cable to reactivate the second power channel which recently experienced an “unexpected trip” on November 26.
“By isolating the portion of the affected array, which was one of several damaged wires, the goal is to restore 75% of the array’s functionality,” NASA said in a statement.
On Dec. 19, Cassada and Rubio will embark on another spacewalk to install a second solar array on the second power channel, located on the station’s arched truss.
The original solar arrays on the space station are still functional, but they have been providing power there for more than 20 years and are showing some signs of wear and tear after prolonged exposure to the space environment. The arrays were originally designed to last 15 years.
Erosion can be caused by thruster plumes, which come both from the station’s thrusters and from crew and cargo vehicles coming and going from the station, as well as micrometeorite debris.
New solar fields are installed in front of the original ones. It’s a good test for the new solar arrays, as this same design will power parts of the planned Gateway lunar outpost, which will help humans return to the moon through NASA’s Artemis program.
The new arrays will have a similar lifespan of 15 years. However, since the degradation on the original arrays was expected to be worse, the team will monitor the new arrays to test their true longevity, as they could last longer.
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