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Astronauts head outside the space station to prepare for new solar panels – Spaceflight Now

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Astronauts Kayla Barron and Raja Chari floated out of the International Space Station’s airlock for a spacewalk on Tuesday to install brackets and struts to support new solar panels to upgrade the lab’s power system of research.

The two NASA astronauts planned to spend about six and a half hours outside the space station on Tuesday, working on the starboard side, or the right side, of the lab’s massive electrical trellis, which extends as long as ‘a soccer field.

Barron and Chari donned their NASA spacesuits early Tuesday, depressurized the station’s Quest airlock and opened the hatch to venture outside the complex. The spacewalk officially began at 8:11 a.m. EDT (1211 GMT), when the astronauts put their suits on battery power.

The astronauts planned to gather gear and tools before heading to the starboard truss of the space station for their work.

Barron is the lead spacewalker, designated EV1, and wears a costume marked with red stripes. Chari, designated EV2, wears a stripeless spacesuit.

After traveling to the job site, the astronauts will assemble and install brackets and spacers to accommodate new solar panels to be delivered to the space station on a future SpaceX Dragon cargo mission. Astronauts will build the triangular fixture, called a modification kit and made up of individual struts, to provide a mounting location for six new deployed solar array wings to improve the station’s power-generating capacity.

Astronauts Kayla Barron and Raja Chari are assigned for Tuesday’s spacewalk. Credit: NASA

Two of the station’s newest deployment solar arrays, or iROSAs, were delivered during a SpaceX resupply mission last June and installed on the port or left outer truss. The next two are slated to arrive on a SpaceX flight in October, with another pair to be flown to the station later.

The new panels are designed to cover parts of the space station’s older solar panels, which have degraded over time.

Barron and Chari’s work on Tuesday will focus on the solar panel modification kit for the inner starboard beam.

Assuming the astronauts finish the job with the solar panel struts, they will move to the starboard end of the truss and open the insulation covering a battery charge/discharge unit. They will reduce the torque on the bolts holding the unit in place for possible future replacement using the station’s robotic systems.

Barron and Chari, both on their first spaceflights, arrived at the space station in November on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft. Tuesday’s spacewalk is the second of Barron’s career, following a December excursion. This is the first for Chari.

The spacewalk is the 247th in support of the assembly and maintenance of the International Space Station.

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