Astronauts complete spacewalk to retrofit
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[March 25, 2017]
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Two
spacewalking astronauts ventured outside the International Space Station
on Friday for a 6-1/2-hour spacewalk, the first of three to prepare the
orbiting laboratory for future commercial space taxis and to tackle
maintenance chores, NASA TV showed.
U.S. station commander Shane Kimbrough, 49, and French flight engineer
Thomas Pesquet, 39, floated outside the station's airlock as the $100
billion complex soared 250 miles (402 km) above Earth.
Kimbrough, making his fifth spacewalk, first upgraded a computer relay
box on the station's central beam, then worked on a docking system for
new spaceships in development by Boeing and Space Exploration
Technologies, or SpaceX.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration is making the
retrofits in the hope that private companies will begin flying
astronauts to the station by the end of 2018. This would break Russia's
monopoly on crew transportation, a service that costs NASA more than $80
million per person.
The first of the space taxis is scheduled for an unmanned debut test
flight later this year.
During Friday's spacewalk, Kimbrough disconnected four cables on a
docking tunnel to be used by the new commercial space taxis. On Sunday,
ground control teams will use the station's robot arm to move it onto a
The astronauts also lubricated part of the station's robot arm, replaced
cameras on Japan's experiment platform and tackled other maintenance
tasks before heading back inside the station.
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A second spacewalk by Pesquet and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson is
planned for Thursday to install new cables to the relocated docking
Once all the work is finished, the U.S. side of the station will
have two docking ports for passenger spaceships and two for cargo
ships. Russia, which jointly operates the station with NASA, has
five docking ports.
Also participating in the station program with research modules and
equipment are Europe, Japan and Canada.
During Friday's spacewalk, Pesquet inspected hoses, attachments and
other components of the station's ammonia cooling system. Flight
controllers are looking for the source of a small leak in the
Pesquet, making his second spacewalk, did not see any leaking
ammonia but engineers will review his video for closer scrutiny,
said NASA mission commentator Gary Jordan.
NASA is expected to schedule a third spacewalk once its next cargo
ship arrives at the station with more items to install. Engineers
are troubleshooting a problem with the cargo ship's launch vehicle.
(Editing by Letitia Stein and Sandra Maler)
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