Space

NASA astronauts upgrade vital ISS batteries during 7-hour spacewalk

NASA astronauts upgrade vital ...
The International Space Station as seen by the crew of Expedition 56 on October 4, 2018
The International Space Station as seen by the crew of Expedition 56 on October 4, 2018
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Astronauts Christina Kock and Andrew Morgan
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Astronauts Christina Kock and Andrew Morgan
The International Space Station as seen by the crew of Expedition 56 on October 4, 2018
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The International Space Station as seen by the crew of Expedition 56 on October 4, 2018
Astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan pictured in spacesuits during a spacewalk earlier this year
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Astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan pictured in spacesuits during a spacewalk earlier this year

NASA’s Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan have successfully completed a seven-hour spacewalk, during which the astronauts clung to the outer hull of the International Space Station (ISS), while upgrading the outpost’s vital power systems. ISS crew members have now successfully completed 219 spacewalks, during which astronauts have clocked an impressive 57 days, 6 hours and 27 minutes of work time in the hostile environment of low-Earth orbit.

The latest spacewalk is the first of five outings that will take place this month, all of which can be watched live on NASA TV.

At 7:39 a.m. EDT on October 6 , Koch and Morgan switched their spacesuits – also known as Extravehicular Mobility Units, or EMUs – to internal power, and prepared to exit the station.

Over the next seven hours and one minute, the pair worked to replace the stations current 400 lb (180 kg) nickel-hydrogen batteries with lithium-ion batteries that were located on the space station’s port truss section.

Six of the new batteries were delivered to the station in October by a Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan pictured in spacesuits during a spacewalk earlier this year
Astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan pictured in spacesuits during a spacewalk earlier this year

The power system is designed to store electricity generated by the station’s large solar panels, in order to power the ISS as it goes through orbital night phases, during which time it is smothered in Earth’s shadow.

The newer batteries are more powerful, and have a higher capacity. According to NASA one lithium-ion battery will take the spot of every two nickel-hydrogen batteries currently aboard the station.

Koch and Morgan were able to replace the battery ahead of time, and progress to complete additional tasks that would otherwise have to be completed on future extravehicular activities (EVAs), including the removal of another aging battery.

Throughout the EVA, live footage was provided courtesy of cameras mounted on the outside of the station, supplemented by additional recording equipment located in the helmets of the suits, which gave an astronaut-eye view of the work as it progressed. Koch and Morgan re-entered the station at 2:40 p.m. EDT.

Astronauts Christina Kock and Andrew Morgan
Astronauts Christina Kock and Andrew Morgan

Over the (northern) summer period NASA addressed an issue that it had with only having a single medium-sized spacesuit aboard the station. The shortage ultimately prevented astronauts Koch and Anne McClain from performing the first all-female spacewalk back in March. There are now two medium and two large EMUs configured aboard the station, although at the present time all four potential spacewalkers crewing the station would require a medium suit.

With the issue resolved, NASA intends to undertake the first historic all-female spacewalk on October 21, when Christina Koch will float out of the airlock once more, this time accompanied by Jessica Meir, who is currently undertaking her first tour aboard the ISS.

The video below shows the 219th spacewalk in full.

NASA Astronauts Spacewalk Outside the International Space Station on Oct. 6, 2019

Source: NASA

1 comment
piperTom
Now what happens to the (waste?) nickel-hydrogen batteries? A dozen new 400 pound hunks of space debris?