By: April Carson
End-of-the-year spacewalks are underway, with the first kicking off this morning outside the International Space Station.
This was the first spacewalk for both Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio, NASA astronauts. They began their excursion outside the space station at 9:14 a.m. ET and ended 7 hours and 11 minutes later, at 4:25 p.m.
The spacewalkers were tasked with installing new high-definition cameras and upgrading the station's communication system.
Cassada, wearing the red-striped spacesuit terms "extravehicular crew member 1," while Rubio donned an unmarked suit as "extravehicular crew member 2."
While staring in awe at the Earth's beauty, the astronauts put together a mounting bracket on the space station's truss.
This is just one of several planned upgrades to the space station's exterior, which will allow for more comprehensive observation and research of our home planet.
Looking back at their handiwork after completing the task, Rubio said "it looks like a little bit of a rat's nest, but it'll do the job."
Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft delivered the hardware to the space station on November 9. Even though only one of its two solar arrays deployed after launch, the cargo was safely delivered.
With this new hardware, we can install more rollout solar arrays called iROSAs outside the space station to provide a power boost. The first two were installed in June 2021, and six total have been planned. They will likely increase the space station’s power generation by over 30% once they are all operational.
The spacewalkers also retrieved hardware that will be returned to Earth for analysis. This includes a battery charge/discharge unit (CDU) that failed earlier this month. The CDU is part of the station’s electrical system and helps regulate the power stored in the batteries.
A pair of astronauts will spacewalk on November 28 and December 1 to install another set of solar arrays. The solar arrays are scheduled to be delivered by the next SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply mission, which launches on November 21.
With these new solar arrays, the space station will be able to generate more power than ever before. This will be a big help for future missions, as the space station will be able to support more astronauts and science experiments.
Though spacewalks are a usual occurrence for space station crew members as they routinely upgrade and maintain the aging orbital laboratory, Tuesday's spacewalk was NASA's first since March. The agency ceased all future spacewalks after water was found in European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer's helmet following his first attempt. Following an investigation, NASA found that the leak was caused by a manufacturing flaw in Maurer's suit.
Upon returning to the airlock after a spacewalk, officials discovered that Maurer's helmet had a thin layer of moisture on it. Fortunately, upon closer inspection NASA deemed the event as merely “a close-call” and water samples along with various other pieces of spacesuit hardware were sent back to Earth for further investigation. It is worth noting that no suit failures or malfunctions occurred during this incident either.
As NASA noted in a recent blog post update, the water present in the helmet was most likely caused by "integrated system performance." This means that various factors - like crew exertion and cooling settings - resulted in an increase of condensation. For example, when an astronaut exhales, the humid air inside their suit mixes with the much drier air outside.
"As a result of the findings, the team has revised their operational procedures and created new hardware to reduce the likelihood of water accumulation inside the helmet while also absorbing any water that does appear. These changes will help contain liquid within the helmet and keep crew members safe."
With their review completed in October, officials at NASA have now approved spacewalks to resume. Dina Contella, who is the operations integration manager for the International Space Station Program, said that the investigation team has come up with ways to manage temperature within the suit and added new absorption bands into the helmet.
The several thin orange pieces have strategically been placed throughout the helmet for safety, as it has already been tested by astronauts in space.
The models we tested involved the crew sloshing water around inside the helmet to approximate a worst-case scenario, said Contella. The pads were shown to be effective in these tests.
Tuesday’s spacewalk was mainly for testing the new pads before installation, but it also allowed the crew to work on other areas outside of the space station. In the next few weeks, there will be more complex solar array installation spacewalks.
The new helmet pads are a result of an investigation that was opened after water was found in the helmets of two astronauts during a spacewalk in July 2013. The investigation revealed that the water had come from the astronauts’ drinking bags, and it was determined that there were no safety concerns.
This Thursday, a Russian spacewalk is scheduled to take place. At 9 a.m ET, cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin will begin their walk in order to work on the outside of the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. In seven hours, they will prepare a radiator for transfer from the Rassvet module to Nauka. The spacewalk will also stream live on NASA’s website.
A Tear In The Sky Billy Carson With Caroline Cory
About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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