Astronauts Thomas Pesquet of France and Shane Kimbrough of the United States floated outside the International Space Station on Wednesday as they began the painstaking process of installing new solar panels to bolster the deteriorating power systems of the orbital outpost.
This is the first of several excursions to augment the ISS’s existing eight solar panels, the first pair to operate continuously since December 2000.
The spacewalk duo were installing the first of six new deployment panels – but display and control issues on Kimbrough’s spacesuit forced him to return to the station to reboot his systems, and the time lost meant they wouldn’t complete the process on Wednesday.
Spacewalks “are going to be very difficult, very complex, so we have to make sure we’re both on the same page for every move we make,” Kimbrough said before leaving the airlock on Wednesday. morning.
Part of the installation procedure must be performed while the ISS is in the shadow of the Earth, when the station is running on battery power.
The combination of the original berries and six smaller, more efficient berries will restore the power supply by 20-30%.
“Together, they generate more power than our original grid when it was new did on its own,” said Dana Weigel, deputy director of the International Space Station program.
Once the mission is complete, the ISS will be operational again at 215 kilowatts. For comparison, a desktop computer and monitor run at around 270 watts, and a small refrigerator uses around 725 watts.
The new panels can be deployed like yoga mats and are smaller and lighter than traditional solar panels.
NASA is hoping to move forward with the technology to get the Artemis mission back to the moon, and similar panels will likely be used on a future lunar station called the Gateway.
It was Pesquet’s third spacewalk and Kimbrough’s seventh.
© 2021 AFP