Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and NASA astronaut Nicole Mann suited up and floated outside the International Space Station Friday for a planned six-and-a-half hour spacewalk to prepare the lab for arrival of another pair of new solar arrays later this year.
The astronauts switched their spacesuits to internal battery power at 8:14 a.m. EST (1314 GMT) Friday to mark the official start of the spacewalk, the first of the year at the space station. They floated out of the Quest airlock to begin gathering tools and headed to the starboard, or right, side of the station’s power truss.
Wakata and Mann will complete the installation of a mounting bracket near one of the space station’s eight existing solar arrays, associated with power channel 1B. Work on that task began on a previous spacewalk. Then the astronauts will begin to work on attaching a mounting frame for another solar array on power channel 1A.
The two power channels the astronauts will work on Friday are located on the starboard side of the space station’s solar power truss, which extends the length of a football field. Channel 1B is on the S6 truss section at the far right of the power truss, and Channel 1A is located on the next section inward, called S4.
The mounting frames, called modifications kits, will support the attachment of new roll-out solar arrays to be delivered to the space station later this year on a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship. SpaceX has already launched four of the roll-out solar arrays on two previous Dragon resupply missions in June 2021 and in November 2022.
This diagram illustrates the power truss of the International Space Station. The S4 and S6 sections are the focus of Friday’s spacewalk. Credit: NASA
The spacewalk Friday is part of a series of excursions to prepare for and install the new International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or iROSA units. The iROSA units are built by Redwire, and are designed to augment the space station’s capability to generate electricity as the efficiency of the lab’s original solar panels declines with age.
NASA wants the mounting frame for each new solar array wing to be installed ahead of time. Then the astronauts go out on spacewalks to attach each new roll-out solar array by hand when they arrive on a SpaceX cargo freighter.
NASA astronauts Frank Rubio and Josh Cassada completed two spacewalks in December to install and unfurl the two newest roll-out solar arrays. Station crew members will perform similar work later this year when SpaceX delivers the final two roll-out solar arrays on a cargo mission tentatively set for launch in June.
The roll-out solar arrays launch wrapped around a spool to fit inside the Dragon spacecraft’s cargo trunk. Once deployed, they stretch about 63 feet …….