Astronauts undertake spacewalk to begin reconfiguring ISS
NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts have successfully completed a grueling six hour and 41 minute spacewalk. It saw the Americans route 340 ft (104 m) of cable in order to facilitate the fitting of a future docking system that will allow the next generation of unmanned and manned commercial craft (such as SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft), to berth at the station's harmony docking node. The installation of the new system will represent the most significant reconfiguration of the ISS since the US Space Shuttle Program.
Sunday's spacewalk was a first for Virts and the second for Wilmore, who with the completion of the latest foray, has spent over 13 hours clinging to the outer hull of mankind's most distant outpost. Sunday's EVA was the first of three spacewalks needed to install the system, which will add much needed standardization to the docking systems aboard the station.
The new berthing port – the International Docking Adapter (IDA) – was developed by NASA's partner Boeing, with the first system due to be transported to the station aboard a SpaceX Dragon resupply mission sometime this year.
Over a period of nearly seven hours, the two-man team transported crew bags containing data and power cables through the Quest airlock, traversing the outside of the Destiny research module to the work site located on the forward end of the Harmony module. Having stowed the bags safely, the team got to work disconnecting old cables that had serviced the now discontinued US Space Shuttle Program, and rigging up the power and data cables for the future IDA system.
The EVA was completed with no complications, however the pair will not have long to relax. They're slated to venture forth through the airlock once again, for the second of the three planned spacewalks as early as this Wednesday, when they will install two more cables and service the station's robotic arm, Candarm2.