NASA Astronauts Complete Exciting Spacewalk In Prep For New ISS Solar Array

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Two Expedition 68 crew members completed the first spacewalk from the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday. NASA astronaut Nicole Mann and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata completed work left over from a previous spacewalk.

Wakata and Mann began preparation for the spacewalk by turning on batteries inside their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits. The pair of astronauts then performed the installation of two mounting platforms as part of a planned solar array augmentation on the starboard side of the space station's truss, according to a NASA blog post.

Mann and Wakata completed the work left over from a previous spacewalk on the 1B power channel, and started the installation of a mounting platform on the 1A power channel. The modification kits being installed will enable the future installation of a roll-out solar array.

While the current solar arrays are functioning properly, NASA says they are beginning to show signs of degradation. In order to ensure there is sufficient power for NASA's exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond, the space agency is augmenting six of the eight existing power channels with new solar arrays. The new solar arrays will be a larger version of the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology. Boeing, Spectrolab, and Deployable Space Systems (DSS) are providing the new arrays.

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NASA astronaut Mann and Japan astronaut Wakata

NASA stated, "The new solar arrays will be positioned in front of six of the current arrays, and will use the existing sun tracking, power distribution, and channelization. This approach is similar to the one used to upgrade the station's external television cameras to high definition, using the existing power and control mechanisms."

The spacewalk, which lasted 7 hours and 21 minutes, marked the 258th spacewalk in support of space station assembly, upgrades, and maintenance. It was also the first spacewalk for both Mann and Wakata.