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Astronauts Complete Spacewalk to Prepare Space Station for Power Upgrades

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
March 2, 2021
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Spacewalkers Victor Glover and Kate Rubins are pictured at the mast canister, installing bracket support struts to the base of the solar array on Feb, 28th 2021. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover concluded their spacewalk on Sunday at 1:16 p.m. EST, after 7 hours and 4 minutes. In the third spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, the two NASA astronauts began work to install modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades.

The duo worked near the farthest set of existing solar arrays on the station’s left (port) side, known as P6. Glover built a bracket structure and worked with Rubins to attach the bracket and support struts to the mast canister, the base, of one of the P6 solar arrays, known as 2B. One of the bolts did not fully engage on the first attempt, so Rubins used a power drill to back it out and reseat it, then used a ratchet wrench to tighten the bolt, reaching a safe configuration. The bolt likely will need to be secured further before installing one of the new solar arrays that will be delivered to the space station later this year aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission.

Rubins and Glover then moved to begin identical assembly work for the bracket for the second of the P6 solar array pair, known as 4B. They completed the construction of upper support hardware and secured it to the space station’s exterior structure until work can be completed on the next spacewalk on Friday, March 5.

To ensure a sufficient power supply is maintained for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond as well as utilization and commercialization, NASA is augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays. The new solar arrays, a larger version of the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology, will be positioned in front of six of the current arrays, ultimately increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts. The current solar arrays are functioning well but have begun to show signs of degradation, as expected, as they were designed for a 15-year service life.

This was the third career spacewalk for both Rubins and Glover. Rubins has now spent a total of 19 hours and 50 minutes spacewalking. Glover now has spent a total of 19 hours and 20 minutes spacewalking.

Space station crew members have conducted 235 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 61 days, 14 hours, and 11 minutes working outside the station.

During the spacewalk March 5, Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi will venture outside the orbiting outpost to complete the installation of the 4B array modification kit and are expected to tackle additional work, including the venting of ammonia from the Early Ammonia System.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook  and ISS Instagram accounts.

3 responses to “Astronauts Complete Spacewalk to Prepare Space Station for Power Upgrades”

  1. Robert G. Oler says:

    this is a big deal and well done

  2. GaryChurch says:

    4 billion a year for…what?
    Ten years from now we could have a Moonbase but instead 40 billion will have been wasted going around in circles a couple hundred miles up. The most obscene pork show of all yet the NewSpace clowns love it because it is a spacex cash cow. It should have been splashed in 2016 as scheduled.

    • duheagle says:

      If we’re ever going to space to stay, we have to quit leaving places we’ve been to get to the next place we haven’t. There’s no future in an arbitrarily long series of abandoned short-term campsites.

      ISS needs replacement. And by things designed to be far more economical to build and run in the first place than ISS ever was. And it will get replaced. A decade hence, there will be hundreds of people in LEO at any given moment, not 6 or 7.

      If we spent that $40 billion on a “Moonbase” done your way, that would buy maybe 10 SLS missions, only the unmanned of which could carry any landable cargo – and not much of that. After a decade of annual $4 billion-a-pop steamer trunk deliveries, the two people, who could finally follow, would have a “base” consisting mainly of expended small landers.

      Starship HLS will do a lot better than that on its first trip and do it a lot sooner too – before mid-decade.

      You may insult me now as answering me seems entirely beyond you.

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