Two veteran cosmonauts floated outside the International Space Station Friday to remove an electronics box and install a more powerful replacement as part of an upgrade to improve communications with the Russian segment of the lab complex. Station commander Alexander Misurkin and crewmate Anton Shkaplerov opened the hatch of the Pirs docking and airlock module at 10:35 a.m. EST (GMT-5) to officially kick off a planned six-and-a-half hour excursion near the aft end of the Russian Zvezda module.
"It is Groundhog Day, after all, and as the cosmonauts have emerged from the Pirs docking compartment, ultimately they'll see their shadow ... thus earning six more hours-plus of spacewalk activity," commentator Rob Navias observed from NASA's mission control center in Houston as the spacewalkers floated out of the airlock.
The spacewalk came just 10 days after two NASA spacewalkers, Mark Vande Hei and Scott Tingle, carried out the year's first station EVA, installing a new grapple mechanism on one end of the lab's robot arm. A second spacewalk to complete unfinished arm-related work is planned later this month.
The goal of Friday's excursion was to remove a 60-pound radio receiver used with the Russian Lira communications system's OHA high-gain antenna. The flight plan called for Misurkin and Shkaplerov to disconnect the old receiver, toss it overboard and install a more powerful unit that will eventually permit high-speed communications and telemetry comparable to NASA's Ku-band system.
The original instrumentation unit was to be jettisoned to the aft of the station along a trajectory that assures no chance of a subsequent close encounter with the lab. The box eventually will fall into the atmosphere and burn up.
The cosmonauts planned to carry out one or more lower-priority "get-ahead" tasks, if possible, before re-entering Pirs, closing the hatch and repressurizing the compartment to bring the spacewalk to a close.
This is the 207th spacewalk since station assembly began in 1998, the second so far this year, the fourth for Misurkin and the second for Shkaplerov. Going into Friday's EVA, more than 120 astronauts and cosmonauts had logged 1,285 hours and 49 minutes of spacewalk time, or 53.6 days.
A record-setting Russian spacewalk ended with a critical antenna in the wrong position Friday outside the International Space Station.
NASA's Mission Control reported that the antenna was still working. Nevertheless, Russian space officials were convening a special team to see whether further action would be necessary. The antenna is used for communications with Russia's Mission Control outside Moscow.
The trouble arose toward the end of the more than 8 hour spacewalk — the longest ever by Russians and the fifth longest overall — after Commander Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov successfully replaced an electronics box to upgrade the antenna.
The pair watched in dismay as the antenna got hung up on the Russian side of the complex and could not be extended properly. The antenna — a long boom with a 4-foot dish at the end — had been folded up before the repair work.
Misurkin and Shkaplerov pushed, as flight controllers tried repeatedly, via remote commanding, to rotate the antenna into the right position. Finally, someone shouted in Russian, "It's moving. It's in place."
NASA Mission Control said from Houston that the antenna wound up in a position 180 degrees farther than anticipated.
The spacewalk dragged on so long — lasting 8 hours and 13 minutes — that Misurkin and Shkaplerov ended up surpassing the previous Russian record of 8 hours and 7 minutes, set in 2013. It was supposed to last 6 ? hours.
"Are you kidding us?" one of them asked when they heard about the record.
NASA still holds the world record, with a spacewalk just shy of nine hours back in 2001.
Misurkin and Shkaplerov also asked flight controllers whether the antenna was operating "or have we just wasted our time?" The response: It's being evaluated.
It was the second spacewalk in as many weeks. On Jan. 23, two U.S. astronauts went out to give a new hand to the station's big robotic arm. NASA had planned another spacewalk this week, but bumped it to mid-February because engineers needed extra time to get the mechanical hand working.
After removing the old, obsolete electronics box from the antenna — an original part, launched in 2000 — Misurkin shoved it away from the space station. The bundle tumbled harmlessly away, 250 miles above the North Atlantic.
The 60-pound box — measuring just a couple of feet, or less than a meter — was hurled in a direction that will not intersect with the space station, according to NASA officials.
While the Russians routinely toss old equipment and used towels overboard during spacewalks, NASA prefers to secure no-longer-needed items or, if possible, bring them inside. Except for SpaceX's cargo ships, empty supply capsules are filled with trash and set loose to burn up in the atmosphere. The discarded electronics box will re-enter and burn up, too; Mission Control said it did not know when that will occur.
Misurkin will return to Earth at the end of this month with two NASA crewmates.
The space station is home to two Russians, three Americans and one Japanese.
Quelle: abc News