Space suit issues prevent astronauts from completing installation of ISS solar panels – –

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Space suit issues prevent astronauts from completing installation of ISS solar panels – –


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – Space suit issues prevented astronauts from completing the installation of powerful new solar panels outside the International Space Station on Wednesday.

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough encountered a pair of space suit issues in the middle of the seven-hour spacewalk, forcing him to temporarily retreat to the airlock to reset his equipment. The interruption put Kimbrough and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet an hour late, and then they struggled to try and deploy the arrows from the solar panel before time finally ran out.

The two are expected to venture out again on Sunday. But it’s unclear if that will be delayed, or if the astronauts will finish work on the first solar panel or start the second.

NASA wants to revitalize the aging space station as the demand for visits increases. But there is no rush to do so, said Mission Control commentator Rob Navias, with older solar panels providing a lot of power at the moment. They will continue to operate in a degraded state even after the new ones are operational.

Mission Control stressed that Kimbrough was safe the entire time, despite issues with his suit’s display control panel and a fleeting pressure spike in the cooling system. His control panel came back on, and Mission Control continued to monitor his suit’s cooling system.

“We just want to be super safe here,” mission control said over the radio.

It was the first in a series of spacewalks to equip the aging orbital outpost with six smaller but more powerful solar wings. The electrical back-up is needed to accommodate the paying passengers who are due to pass, starting with a Russian film crew this fall.

NASA put additional safety precautions in place while Kimbrough and Pesquet worked on the station’s main power grid, to prevent an electric shock. The duo performed the most dangerous parts of the spacewalk on the night side of Earth, to prevent the station’s old solar panels from absorbing sunlight and generating electricity. The metal surfaces of their spacesuits have been coated to prevent contact.

Launched by SpaceX earlier this month, the first of these new solar panels will operate alongside the station’s oldest power-generating wings, in continuous operation for more than 20 years.

The astronauts had to lug the bundled solar wing – 10 feet long and 4 feet wide (3 meters long by 1 meter wide) – to the construction site at the left end of the station. They were able to bolt it in place, but were unable to unfold the arrows due to a problem in the mounting bracket.

When properly installed, the solar panel is designed to roll out like a 63-foot (19-meter) long red carpet.

NASA wants the space station to continue to conduct scientific research throughout this decade, and space tourists are going to tax the electrical system more. A Russian director and actress are expected to visit for the shoot in October, followed by wealthy entrepreneurs from Kazakhstan and Cape Canaveral as part of a campaign to open up the private space market.

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