Two NASA astronauts ready for a spacewalk to replace the defective space station antenna – .

Two NASA astronauts ready for a spacewalk to replace the defective space station antenna – .

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Two U.S. astronauts were scheduled to venture out of the International Space Station for a spacewalk on Tuesday to replace a failing antenna, in the face of what NASA officials say is a slightly increased risk of test debris Russian anti-satellite missile.

NASA TV planned to provide live coverage of the 6.5-hour spacewalk, which was scheduled to begin at 7:10 a.m. Eastern Time (12:10 GMT) as astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Brown emerge from an airlock in the research laboratory orbiting about 250 miles (402 km) above Earth.

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The spacewalk is the fifth spacewalk for Marshburn, 61, a medical doctor and former air surgeon with two previous trips to orbit, and the first for Barron, 34, a U.S. Navy submarine officer and engineer nuclear during its first space flight for NASA.

Their goal is to remove a defective set of S-band radio communications antennas, which are now over 20 years old, and replace it with a new spare part stored outside the space station.

The faulty antenna recently lost its ability to send signals to Earth. Although other antennas on the space station may perform the same function, mission leaders decided to install the replacement to provide communications redundancy, NASA said.

Marshburn will work with Barron while being positioned at the end of a robotic arm operated from inside the station by German astronaut Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency, with assistance from his NASA teammate Raja Chari.

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The four arrived at the space station on November 11 in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Joining two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut already aboard the outpost in orbit.

Four days later, an anti-satellite missile test conducted without warning by Russia generated a field of debris in low earth orbit, and the seven crew members took refuge in their docked spacecraft to allow a quick jaunt to ‘that the immediate danger has passed, according to Nasa.

The residual cloud of debris from the blasted satellite has since dispersed, according to Dana Weigel, NASA’s deputy director of the International Space Station (ISS) program.

But NASA calculates that the remaining fragments continue to pose a “slightly high” background risk to the space station as a whole, and a 7% higher risk of puncturing the astronauts’ suits, compared to before the Russian missile test. Weigel told reporters on Monday. .

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While NASA has yet to fully quantify the additional dangers posed by the more than 1,700 larger fragments it tracks around the station’s orbit, the 7% higher risk for space walkers is ‘fits “well with” fluctuations previously observed in “the natural environment,” Weigel said.

Still, mission leaders canceled several small maintenance tasks planned for Tuesday’s spacewalk, Weigel added.

Tuesday’s exercise marks the 245th spacewalk in support of the assembly, maintenance and upgrades of the space station, which this month surpassed 21 years of continuous human presence, NASA announced.

(By Steve Gorman. Editing by Gerry Doyle)


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