Astronauts will give the space station a power boost during Saturday’s spacewalk

Astronauts will give the space station a power boost during Saturday's spacewalk
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The International Space Station will get a power boost during a spacewalk on Saturday, when NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio install a solar panel outside the floating lab.

The spacewalk is on track to begin at 7:25 a.m. ET and will last approximately seven hours, streamed live on NASA’s website.

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

This hardware allows for the installation of more deployable solar panels, called iROSAs, to increase electrical power on the space station.

The first two deployment 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 generation by more than 30% once all are ready. operational.

Two more arrays were delivered to the space station on November 27 aboard the 26th SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply mission, which also brought dwarf tomato seeds and other experiments to the orbiting laboratory.

The arrangements were rolled up like a rug and weigh 750 pounds (340 kilograms) and 10 feet (3 meters) wide.

During Saturday’s spacewalk, Cassada and Rubio will install a solar panel to increase capacity in one of the space station’s eight power channels, located on the station’s starboard structure.

Once the astronauts unfold the array and put it in place, it will be about 63 feet (19 meters) long and 20 feet (6 meters) wide.

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

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

Cassada and Rubio will conduct another spacewalk on December 19 to install a second deployable solar array on another power channel, located on the station’s port truss.

The space station’s original solar panels are still functional, but have been supplying power for more than 20 years and show some signs of wear after prolonged exposure to the space environment. The arrangements were originally designed to last 15 years.

Erosion can be caused by thruster plumes, which come from both the station thrusters and the the crew and cargo vehicles going to and from the station, as well as micrometeorite debris.

The new solar panels are being placed in front of the original ones. It’s a good test for the new solar panels, because this same design will power parts of the planned Gateway lunar outpost, which will help humans return to the moon via NASA Artemis Program.

The new arrangements will have a similar life expectancy of 15 years. However, since the degradation of the original fixes was expected to be worse, the team will monitor the new fixes to test their true longevity, as they may last longer.

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