Astronauts install a new solar panel outside the International Space Station – Spaceflight Now

NASA astronaut Josh Cassada dons a red-striped space suit inside the ISS Roll-Out Solar Array as he rides the space station’s robotic arm on Saturday. Credit: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now

NASA astronauts Josh Casada and Frank Rubio launched a seven-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Saturday to install and launch a newly unveiled solar array aboard a SpaceX cargo ship.

Casada and Rubio, both on their first spacewalk, began their spacewalk at 7:16 a.m. EDT (1216 GMT) on Saturday. The start of the flight was officially marked when the astronauts plugged their spacesuits into battery power.

The astronauts moved from Quest into the space station airlock to the starboard side, or right side, of the laboratory’s solar array, where the station’s robotic arm placed two new ISS Roll-Out Solar Array, or iROSA, modules into each earlier this week after they were pulled from the lab. That. Trunk of the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule. The Dragon spacecraft delivered solar arrays to the space station on Nov. 27, along with tons of supplies and experiments.

The new solar blankets were wrapped around snails and rolled up like a yoga mat after being attached to a support bracket on the right side of the space station’s power grid, Section 4 or S4, which is longer than the length of a football field from end to end. -finish.

The astronauts first tried to remove one of the two newly delivered iROSA modules from its holder by loosening the screws and fasteners. Cassada leaned on the end of the Canadian robotic arm and hand held the rollers of the solar panel as the arm moved it up the S4 truss.

During an earlier spacewalk, the two astronauts placed the iROSA module on a pre-positioned support bracket. They secured the iROSA unit to its hinge and then installed screws to hold it in place. Casada and Rubio electrical connectors to connect the new iROSA module to the electrical system of the space station. A Y-cable was then laid to feed the energy produced by the new solar panel and the original S4 solar panel back into the laboratory’s electricity grid.

In this photo, NASA astronauts Josh Casada (left) and Frank Rubio (right) prepare for a spacewalk in front of the International Space Station on Nov. 15. Credit: NASA

A stabilizing mount connects the new arrays to the station’s feed ducts and rotary joints, which point the solar wings toward the sun as the spacecraft orbits Earth at more than 17,000 miles per hour.

The International Space Station has eight power rails, each powered by electricity from a single array of solar panels extending from the station’s backbone. The new solar array installed on Saturday will generate electricity for the space station’s 3A power rail.

The original solar cells were launched on four Space Shuttle missions between 2000 and 2009. As expected, the efficiency of the station’s original solar arrays deteriorated over time. NASA is upgrading the space station’s power system with new solar arrays, costing $103 million, which will partially cover six of the station’s original eight solar arrays.

When all six iROSA modules are installed on the station, the power system will be capable of generating 215 kilowatts of electricity to support science operations for at least a decade. The booster will also house the new commercial modules that will be launched on the space station.

The first pair of new solar arrays launched on the space station last year were mounted atop the station’s older original solar array in the grid section of P6, located at the left edge of the forward center strut. Two more iROSA modules are scheduled to launch next year during SpaceX’s resupply mission.

The new solar arrays were supplied to NASA by Boeing, Red Wire and a team of subcontractors.

After the new iROSA module was mechanically and electrically integrated into the station’s S4 gears, the astronauts released clips to pack the solar array into launch configuration. This allowed the decks to gradually expand using the composite arms that support the solar deck. Thanks to the design of the commissioning mechanism, no motors are required to operate the solar panel.

“Start,” a mission control pilot yelled over the radio, eliciting applause from support personnel in Houston.

“It’s amazing,” Casada said. “Yeah, that’s pretty cool,” Rubio said.

iROSA’s new wings form a 10-degree angle to the space station’s solar arrays. Credit: NASA

The carbon fiber wishbones have been moved from their natural shape for storage at launch.

The solar array expanded to its fully extended configuration, which was 63 feet long and 20 feet wide (19 by 6 meters), in about 10 minutes. This is about half the length and half the width of the station’s current solar arrays. Despite their small size, each of the new arrays produces roughly the same amount of electricity as all of the station’s existing solar arrays.

After unfolding the blanket, the astronauts used tension bolts to secure the iROSA blanket.

The astronauts then returned to the space station’s truss section to rig another iROSA module that will be mounted on the left side of P4’s truss section for the Dec. 19 spacewalk.

With their tasks completed, Cassada and Rubio return to the Quest airlock and seal the hatch. At 14:21 EDT (1921 GMT), the chamber began to pressurize, ending the spacewalk, which lasted 7 hours and 5 minutes.

Saturday’s spacewalk was the second of Casada and Rubio’s careers, and the 256th since 1998 to support the assembly and maintenance of the International Space Station.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @manukavalláló.

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