A 6-Hour-Long Spacewalk To Replace The Batteries Of The International Space Station

First Posted: Jan 11, 2017 03:30 AM EST

Expedition 50 commander Shane Kimbrough and American astronaut Peggy Whitson, crew members of the International Space Station (ISS), went for a spacewalk to configure the electrical power supply systems of the station for the lithium-ion batteries that will be installed later this month.

This was the first of the two spacewalks planned for this month to upgrade the power storage and supply system of the International Space Station. The spacewalk started at 12:23 p.m. GMT on Jan. 6, 2017 and lasted for six hours and 32 minutes.

Within that time, Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson successfully installed three adapter plates and also configured the electrical supply system so that the new batteries can be installed and activated. Along with that, they managed to complete three "get ahead" tasks, install a new ethernet cable and click a few snaps, reported.

The 12 old nickel-hydrogen batteries will be replaced with the six lithium-ion batteries already sent through the previous cargo missions. The old batteries will be disconnected soon and nine of them will be sent back to Earth in the next cargo draft departing from the International Space Station, while the remaining three will remain on the station for the time being.

Peggy Whitson said before the spacewalk that, "The new batteries are exactly like the lithium-ion batteries in cell phones, only much bigger - one battery is about half the size of a standard refrigerator."

Extensive robotic procedures were employed to limit the number of the required spacewalks to accomplish the change in batteries. The Dextre or the Dextrous Manipulator robotic arm was used to retrieve the new lithium-ion batteries and adapters, which were sent in the HTV-6 cargo spacecraft last month, the Indian Express reported.

The spacewalk was telecast live on the NASA TV channel and millions of people on Earth witnessed it. After its successful completion, commentator Rob Navias said that the astronauts "completed all of the work associated with the battery upgrades for the 3A power channel on the International Space Station - work to be replicated by the ground robotics team over the next week that will set the stage for Kimbrough to venture back outside into the void of space a week from today along with Thomas Pesquet."

The next spacewalk is scheduled on Jan. 13, in which Crew Commander Shane Kimbrough and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency will venture out of the International Space Station to complete the task of battery replacement.

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