NASA astronauts complete seven hour spacewalk to prep ISS for new solar panels

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover have started work to install modification kits required for solar array upgrades on the International Space Station (ISS). The two astronauts concluded their 7 hours and 4 minutes spacewalk at 1:16 PM EST on Sunday.

To recall, NASA announced earlier this year that ISS will get new high-efficiency solar panels later this year as the current arrays are showing signs of degradation.

“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 will be augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays,” NASA said in a press release.

Rubins and Glover put the first set of mounting brackets and struts together. These were then bolted into place next to ISS’ most degraded solar wing.

“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,” NASA said in a blog post.

Further, a power drill was used by Rubins to back one of the bolts that did not fully engage and reseat it. The bolt was tightened using a ratchet. The second set of support frames will be installed by Rubin during a second spacewalk on Friday, March 5.

The new solar arrays will be delivered to ISS later this year aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission. The new arrays will be provided by Boeing, its subsidiary Spectrolab as well as Deployable Space Systems (DSS).

The first pair of solar arrays was deployed in December 2000. Additional arrays were delivered in September 2006, June 2007, and March 2009. NASA says the arrays are designed to offer 15-year service life.

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