Astronauts Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) have completed their spacewalk upgrade of the international space station, installing the new iROSA roll-out solar arrays.
It cost about $100 million to install the six Redwire-produced arrays. The new arrays are expected to add more than 120kW in capacity, which will increase the station’s power generation by 20-30%.
The previous arrays had been designed for a 15-year service life, but had been continually operating since December 2000. Although they were functioning well, the older arrays were showing signs of degradation, as expected.
The duration of the spacewalk was scheduled to last six and a half hours, and ended up totaling seven hours fifteen minutes, with the astronauts utilizing their battery powered suits to traverse the exterior of the station. Kimbrough experienced some errors with his suit’s status display, including a reading of a spike in the pressure reading. After resetting his suit, the data stabilized, but the delay will cause the two astronauts to return for another spacewalk to complete the deployment.
Before the new array can begin supplying power, the spacewalkers will need to install electrical cables and drive the final two bolts, thus allowing the panels to unfurl into the deployed position. This will take place on June 20th, and can be viewed live on NASA’s website.
This is the third spacewalk Kimbrough and Pesquet have conducted in tandem, following two 2017 expeditions in which the astronauts replaced the orbiting laboratory’s nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries.
This report was changed on 6/18, adding details about the technical errors in one astronaut’s spacesuit, and removing the word “successful” from the headline.
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