Two International Space Station (ISS) astronauts yesterday performed their first spacewalk of the year, working on the station’s exterior as part of a long-term program to upgrade the ISS’s power system. The spacewalk took place on Friday, January 20, and lasted over seven hours, although a troublesome prop was not screwed into place as planned.
The two astronauts who performed the spacewalk were NASA astronaut Nicole Mann and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and this was the first spacewalk for each of them.
The ISS’s solar arrays that power the station are aging, so in a long-term project, astronauts are installing new arrays called iROSAs in an offset on top of the old arrays – allowing both sets of arrays to provide power. The purpose of yesterday’s spacewalk was to install two mounting platforms, which would be used to install new solar panels later this year.
The astronauts were able to install a platform for the new array on energy channel 1B, but could only perform part of the work required for the second platform on energy channel 1A. “Due to time constraints, plans to screw in a final support for the second platform have been postponed to a future spacewalk,” writes NASA. “There is no impact on station operations.”
One challenge for the astronauts came in the form of a tricky foothold, reports space.com. There are restraint points on the outside of the station that astronauts use to stay in place while they work, including a type designed to move around in different positions called an Hinged Portable Foot Restraint, or APFR. One such “sticky” APFR caused Mann some trouble, as it was difficult for her to get in and out of the device, although with Wakata’s help she was able to get it working.
This issue with the APFR took extra time, so the pair were unable to get the middle support of the second platform in place. This work will be postponed to a later spacewalk.