Tag Archives: spacewalk

Credit: NASA.

Russian cosmonauts accidentally set a new spacewalk record while repairing old radio antenna

What was supposed to be a standard six-and-a-half hour mission outside the ISS meant to replace an old electronics box, turned into a new spacewalk record, with the time in space totaling eight hours and 13 minutes. It’s the longest Russian spacewalk and the fifth-longest spacewalk in human spaceflight history.

Credit: NASA.

Credit: NASA.

On February 2,  Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov were tasked with upgrading sensitive tech for a high-gain antenna that communicates with Russian mission controllers. The antenna was first installed in space in 2000 and was supposed to communicate with a novel fleet of Russian satellites. The satellites in question, however, took another decade before they launched, and by that time, the electronics that were serving the antenna’s relay-link became obsolete, hence last weekend’s mission.

The plan looked simple enough, but, a lot of things can go wrong in space. This time, the antenna on the box wasn’t extending after being folded up for the upgrade. For hours more, the Russian crew, both in space and on the ground at mission control, toiled to push and rotate the antenna into the correct position.

Eventually, the antenna was finally up after a grueling eight hours and 13 minutes in space. Only one problem though: the antenna ended up 180° in the wrong direction. But at least the Russians now have a new record under their belt, beating the previous Russian record set by cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazanski on December 27, 2013, by about 6 minutes.

Despite the skewed position, Russia’s mission control reported that the antenna was “operating and in good shape.” As for the old, 27-kg electronics box, the cosmonauts took good care of it: a nice shove towards Earth’s atmosphere where it will eventually disintegrate. Check out this one-of-a-kind footage showing how the box was jettisoned.

It was the 207th spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance.The longest spacewalk, which lasted 8 hours and 56 minutes, was carried out by NASA astronauts James S. Voss and Susan J. Helms on March 11, 2001. The next spacewalk is scheduled for February 15.

Credit: NASA.

Russia is planning to offer tourists a trip to the ISS, spacewalks included

Russia is planning on making regular launches to the International Space Station for wealthy tourists willing to pay top dollar for a trip to space. The newly proposed package also involves spacewalks, a first for space tourism. If all that sounds very exciting, wait until you hear the price tag — as much as $100 million a pop. Yikes!

Credit: NASA.

Credit: NASA.

Vladimir Solntsev, CEO of Russian space company Energia, broke the news recently speaking to Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda. Energia’s head says that his company wants to serve a market that’s eager to travel and enjoy life in space. Tourists will be able to “go out on a spacewalk and make a film, (or) a video clip,” he said.

Energia is working on a new module called NEM-2 which will be able to carry four to six people. It’s a luxurious accommodation by astronaut’s standards or anything they’ve been used to up until now. Solntsev says the module will be fitted with comfortable cabins, two toilets, and internet access.

He gave a tentative launch date for 2019, adding that American aerospace giant Boeing expressed interest to become a partner.

The Russian CEO estimates sending five to six tourists to space a year, with each trip lasting up to 10 days at the International Space Station.

The first space tourist was Dennis A. Tito, a California multimillionaire, who shelved $20 million for a ride and spent eight days in the International Space Station with two cosmonauts in 2001. Guy Laliberte, the founder of Canada’s Cirque du Soleil, paid more than $35 million for 12 days at the ISS in 2009.

In total, 7 space tourists have made 8 space flights. This a rapidly growing sector with many private companies, particularly Western ones such as Virgin Galactic, in competition to offer the most comfortable and affordable solution.

Some of you might think there’s no chance you’ll ever get to space — not with these prices. But that’s the thing — these prices won’t stay this outrageously high forever. Not too long ago, owning an automobile was also prohibitively expensive, so was a ride on an airplane. Innovations like reusable rockets and new capsule designs mean that someday, a trip to space will be within the reach of those with more modest fortunes.


NASA astronauts start spacewalk — with live footage

In the first of three planned spacewalks, NASA astronauts Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hei will go outside the International Space Station to repair the ISS main robotic appendage.

The three spacewalks have been scheduled with the purpose of tinkering around the ISS. Bresnik will take the lead in all three of these expeditions. Repair and maintenance work is required from time to time, as is the addition of new elements. Now, efforts will focus on the robotic arm, informally known as Canadarm2.

Officially called the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), Canadarm2 is part of the Mobile Servicing System (MSS), and it is one of the most crucial tools on the ISS. Much like the name implies, it is a snake-like robotic arm which can extend up to nearly 60 feet (18 meters) into space. The Canadarm2 was instrumental during the early days of the ISS when large pieces of equipment had to be moved and installed. Nowadays, it is used for routine inspections outside the ISS and to latch and dock incoming cargo spacecraft.

Canadarm2 riding the Mobile Base System along the Mobile Transporter railway, running the length of the station’s main truss. Credits: NASA.

Astronauts will replace one of the two Latching End Effectors on Canadarm2, lubricate the new component and replace cameras at two locations on the station’s truss. The Latching End Effectors, or LEEs, have been steadily deteriorating. They’re complex devices, incorporating sensors, electronics, and a camera, so reparations are not an easy feat. Initially, NASA planned to repair the LEE which seemed most degraded, but the other one stopped working, which moved it to the top of the priority list. The other one is also set for repairs, but that has been postponed for January.

As I am writing this (and sneaking a peak on NASA’s livestream), the astronauts are suiting up and conducting final preparations. By the time you read this, they will probably be outside, working on Canadarm2.

Five days from now, on October 10th, Bresnik and Vande Hei will do another spacewalk to lubricate the new LEE and then replace a camera on the outside of the station. Another five days later, October 15th, Bresnik will be joined by NASA astronaut Joe Acaba for a third spacewalk on to do more lubrication and another camera replacement.

All the three spacewalks of October are slated to begin at 8:05 am EDT (8:05 pm SST), but it is possible to start earlier if the astronauts are moving ahead of schedule.

Spacewalker astronaut runs into trouble

Spacewalking isn’t all fun and games – things can go bad at any moment, and in the latest spacewalk, this is exactly what happened: Mike Fincke, one of NASA’s most experienced spacemen, reported that while they were lubricating a joint in the life-sustaining solar power system of the International Space Station, they lost one bolt and they got one washer stuck in a crevice.

Basically, the bolts which were holding down covers on the huge joint started popping off unexpectedly. His spacewalking partner, Andrew Feustel sums it up with just one word:

“Bummer,” he said.

You just gotta love this kind of sense of humour. However, they went into overtime, trying to fix whateved could be fixed, lubed the rest of the bolts and installed three covers. Thus, the spacewalk lasted 1 and 1/2 hours more than expected, becoming the sixth longest ever.

“You guys earned your pay for the day,” astronaut Gregory Chamitoff radioed from inside. The spacewalkers joked about getting paid, saying their reward was being outside watching the world spin by.

This was an extremely difficult mission, even for Fincke, who hadhis seventh spacewalk and Feustel, who had his fifth. They praised one another as they headed out the hatch. This is Endeavou’r second out of four planned pacewalks, afterwhich the space shuttle will go into a museum.