Today, the space station is preparing for more powerful upgrades as two NASA astronauts conduct the first spacewalk of the year.
Around 8:05 a.m. ET, astronauts Kayla Barron and Raja Chari will suit up and leave the space station to conduct some installations. At 6:30 a.m. ET, NASA’s TV channel and website will begin live coverage of the spacewalk, which is planned to last six hours and 30 minutes.
Expedition 66 crew members are getting ready to leave the International Space Station’s Quest airlock for a spacewalk that will start at 8:05 a.m. EDT and last around 6.5 hours.
Barron and Chari will put together and install the necessary modification kits for planned solar array modifications. Brackets and struts will be installed to facilitate the future installation of an ISS Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA).
Two of the six iROSAs have been placed on station thus far, with four more arrays on the way. Six of the station’s eight power channels will eventually be supplemented by the arrays, raising total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts.
Barron will wear a red-striped outfit and will serve as extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1). Chari will be extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2) and will be dressed in an all-black outfit.
Barron’s spacewalk will be his second, while Chari’s will be her first. Astronauts Tom Marshburn and Matthias Maurer will help the spacewalkers get into and out of their spacesuits, as well as monitor their activities outside of space.
While the current solar arrays on the space station are still operational, they have been producing power to the station for more than 20 years and are beginning to show symptoms of degradation due to prolonged exposure to the space environment. The arrays were created with a 15-year lifespan in mind.
The new solar panels will be installed in front of the existing ones. It’s also a good test for the new solar arrays because they’ll power elements of NASA’s Artemis program’s Gateway lunar base, which will help humans return to the moon.
The agency is gearing up for a second spacewalk on March 23, which will begin at 8:50 a.m. ET.
The two crew members have yet to be named, but they will be in charge of a number of installation upgrades, including the replacement of an external camera and the installation of hoses on a Radiator Beam Valve Module, which routes ammonia through the station’s heat-rejecting radiators to keep the temperature stable.