French and American astronauts carried out a six-hour spacewalk as they installed new solar panels to boost the power supply of the International space station (ISS), NASA said.
“It’s a huge teamwork every time and I couldn’t be happier to come back with @astro_kimbrough,” Frenchman Thomas Pesquet tweeted on Sunday, referring to his US colleague Shane Kimbrough. Pesquet is with the European Space Agency, Kimbrough with NASA.
The two men, who arrived on the space station at the end of April, activated the internal batteries of their spacesuits at 11:42 GMT, then opened the hatch of the ISS airlock.
They then continued the work of positioning, fixing and deploying six new generation solar panels, called iROSA, for Roll-Out Solar Array.
The solar wing rolled off like a red carpet once the last set of bolts were released, relying solely on the stored energy. The slow but steady expansion took 10 minutes, with the station’s cameras providing live TV views. “It’s beautiful,” cried Pesquet.
“Well done to you both,” Mission Control replied after the operation was complete. “It was great to see.”
At the end of the six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk, Kimbrough, who has three children, wished “Happy Father’s Day” to all the flight controller dads. “Thanks for working with us on a Sunday. “
The new solar wing – along with five more to come – will give the aging station a much needed electric boost, as demand for experiences and space tourists increases.
The 19-meter (60-foot) panels were delivered to the station earlier this month by an unmanned SpaceX flight. Astronauts are expected to finish installing a second solar panel on Friday.
The panels will power both daily operations and research and scientific projects on the ISS and are expected to have a lifespan of 15 years.
A first spacewalk on Wednesday encountered several snags, including issues with Kimbrough’s spacesuit. He temporarily lost data on the display unit of his spacesuit, then suffered a brief increase in the pressure of the suit.
Sunday’s outing was the fourth time the two astronauts had ventured into space together. In addition to Wednesday’s spacewalk, they did so twice during a mission in 2017, attached by tethers to the space station as it orbits Earth at an altitude of about 400 kilometers (250 miles).
In total, there were 240 spacewalks of the ISS as the astronauts did the assembly and maintenance work, as well as the station upgrade.
Agence France-Presse and Associated Press contributed to this report