Two Russian cosmonauts exited the Poisk airlock Friday to begin a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Their main goals will be to complete tasks on the European Robotic Arm left unfinished after a spacewalk last month was cut short by a spacesuit battery problem.
Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev opened the hatch of the Poisk airlock module at 9:25 a.m. EDT (1325 GMT) Friday, making the official start of the spacewalk. The cosmonauts are wearing Orlan spacesuits for the excursion, with Artemyev’s suit marked with red stripes and Matveev wearing the Orlan with blue markings.
The main objectives of the spacewalk will be to relocate an external control panel, and testing of a rigidizing mechanism on the arm that will be used to grasp payloads for movement outside the station. Those tasks were originally scheduled for a spacewalk Aug. 17, which was ended early after abnormal battery readings on Artemyev’s Orlan spacesuit.
The battery on Artemyev’s spacesuit has been replaced and re-tested, clearing the way for Friday’s spacewalk.
Before the battery issue cut short the Aug. 17 spacewalk, the cosmonauts completed the installation of two cameras on the elbow of the European Robotic Arm, and moved insulation and a launch restraint from one of the arm’s two end effectors, or hands.
The excursion outside the space station Friday will be the eighth spacewalk in Artemyev’s career, and the fourth for Matveev.
The 37-foot-long (11.3-meter) European Robotic Arm launched last July on Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module, and joins similar Canadian and Japanese arms outside the space station. The robotic arms are designed to move payloads and hardware to different mounting posts on the external structure of the complex.
The Canadian and Japanese robotic arms are positioned outside the U.S.-led segment of the space station, while the Russian segment is accessible to the European arm. Like the Canadian robotic arm, the European arm has the ability to “inchworm” between grapple fixtures, or base points, at multiple locations on the space station.
The excursion Friday marks the 253rd spacewalk for assembly, maintenance, and upgrades of the International Space Station, and the eighth outside the ISS this year. It is the fifth spacewalk primarily dedicated to preparing the European Robotic Arm for operations.
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