Astronauts will power the space station during Saturday’s spacewalk

Astronauts will power the space station during Saturday’s spacewalk

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The International Space Station gets a power boost during a spacewalk on Saturday, as NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio install a solar array outside the floating lab.

The spacewalk will begin at 7:25 a.m. ET and will last approximately seven hours, with live coverage on the NASA website.

During the event, Cassada will serve as extravehicular crew member 1 and wear a red-striped suit, while Rubio will wear an unmarked white suit as extravehicular crew member 2. The duo performed their first spacewalk together in November. Against the backdrop of a spectacular view of Earth, the team mounted a mounting bracket on the starboard side of the space station’s truss.

This hardware will enable the installation of more deployable solar panels, called iROSAs, to increase the space station’s electrical power.

The first two deployable solar panels 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 generation by more than 30% once they are all operational.

On November 27, two more arrays were delivered to the space station aboard the 26th SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply mission, which also carried dwarf tomato seeds and other experiments to the orbiting lab.

The arrays were rolled up like 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 space station’s starboard truss.

Once the array is unfolded and bolted into place by the astronauts, it will be about 19 meters long and 6 meters wide.

The spacewalking duo will also disconnect a cable to reactivate another power channel that recently experienced an “unexpected trip” on Nov. 26.

“By isolating a portion of the affected array, which was one of several damaged strings, the goal is to restore 75% of the array’s functionality,” according to a NASA release.

Cassada and Rubio will spacewalk again on Dec. 19 to install a second roll-out solar array on another power channel, located on the station’s gate truss.

The original solar panels on the space station still work, but they’ve been providing power there for more than 20 years and are showing 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 emanate from both the station’s thrusters and the crew and cargo vehicles coming and going from the station, as well as micrometeorite debris.

The new solar panels are placed in front of the original ones. It’s a good test for the new solar panels, as the same design will power parts of the planned Gateway lunar outpost, which will help people get back to the moon by NASA’s Artemis Program.

The new arrays have a similar life expectancy of 15 years. Since the degradation of the original arrays was expected to be worse, the team will monitor the new arrays to test their actual lifespan, as they may last longer.

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