CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – Astronauts finished deploying a new pair of solar panels outside the International Space Station on Friday, in their third spacewalk in just over a week.
NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and France’s Thomas Bisquet have successfully installed a second in a series of powerful solar wings that will keep the space station operating for the rest of this decade, as space tourism increases as visitors begin in the fall
“We have a lot of happy faces here,” Mission Control said over the radio as force shot across the board.
The mission was supposed to be a twice spacewalk, but the space suit and other issues hampered the astronauts’ work on June 16. As a result, the first solar wing was not extended to its full length of 63 feet (19 metres) until Sunday. NASA added a third spacewalk on Friday to connect and deploy the second wing; This time everything went smoothly at an altitude of 410 kilometers (255 miles).
As soon as Pesquet fired the last bolt, the newest solar wing appeared like a giant stretch of wallpaper, high above the Bering Sea. It took 10 minutes for the slow and steady spread.
“Well done, my friend,” said Kimbrae.
Most of the events occurred during a 6-and-a-half hour spacewalk on the night side of Earth, a safety precaution. NASA didn’t want any solar panels to absorb sunlight and generate power, while astronauts got their hands on the electric grid.
The two solar panels that SpaceX introduced earlier this month are not the size of the station’s original wings. But they are producing more electricity thanks to new technologies. NASA plans to send four more panels over the next year; Boeing supplies them.
This first pair will complement the space station’s old solar wings, which have deteriorated after 20 years of continuous operation.
Kimbrough and Pesquet have been on a six-month assignment two months ago. There are two other Americans aboard the space station, along with a Japanese and Rosan.
by Marcia Dunn
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