Spacewalking astronauts are back 260 miles up, working to install powerful new solar panels outside the International Space Station.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Astronauts ventured on their second spacewalk in less than a week Sunday to install powerful new solar panels outside the International Space Station.
France’s Thomas Pesquet and NASA’s Shane Kimbrough picked up where they left off on Wednesday, when spacesuits and other problems prevented them from unrolling the first in a series of high-tech solar panels.
“Remember, it’s butterflies with biceps today,” astronaut Megan McArthur radioed from inside.
The spacewalkers managed to shut down the first solar wing last week, but had to delay the electrical connections and deploy the panel to its 63 feet (19 meters) in length. That topped Sunday’s to-do list.
These new solar wings are designed to unfold like a red carpet, unlike the station’s old ones that unfolded like an accordion. They will give the old station a much-needed electrical boost, as demand for space experiments and tourists grows.
NASA originally assigned two spacewalks for the job, one for each solar panel that is installed. But the managers added a third spacewalk, given all the above problems. Pesquet and Kimbrough will be dating again on Friday to complete work on the second panel delivered by Space X earlier this month.
This first pair will augment the space station’s oldest solar wings, which are degrading after 20 years of continuous operation.
SpaceX will deliver two more pairs over the next year.
Although smaller than the originals, the new solar panels can generate much more power. The space station needs this revitalization if NASA expects the space station to continue operating for the rest of this decade, with private guests paying millions of dollars to get on board.
A Russian film crew is scheduled to launch into the orbiting outpost this fall from Kazakhstan, followed by a string of wealthy businessmen. SpaceX is providing the trips from Cape Canaveral.
On Wednesday, Kimbrough’s suit display control panel broke down and he had to go back to the airlock to reset it. Then its cooling system registered a momentary pressure spike. “Space is difficult,” he later tweeted.
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