Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cosmonauts begin spacewalk outside station

Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Kondratyev and Oleg Skripochka opened the International Space Station's Pirs airlock hatch at 8:30 a.m., officially beginning this morning's spacewalk.

The Expedition 26 flight engineers plan to retrieve and install two sets of experiments outside the station's Russian segment and discard an unneeded foot restraint.

A small piece of unidentified equipment floated from the airlock soon after the hatch opened. Given it's angle moving away from the station, there is not believed to be any risk that it could cross paths with the station again.

Correcting an earlier post, Russian space officials have put off until July plans to deploy a 57-pound nanosatellite with a ham radio transmitter carrying messages honoring Yuri Gagarin's spaceflight 50 years ago.

The satellite's small batteries wouldn't have lasted until the April 12 anniversary if turned on now, so the plan now is to activate the transmitter inside the station on the anniversary and then deploy it on the next planned Russian spacewalk in July.

Click the NASA TV box at right to watch the spacewalk action live. Kondratyev's Orlan spacesuit is marked with blue stripes and his helmet camera shows No. 18 in the bottom right corner. Skripochka's suit has red stripes and his helmet camera shows No. 20.

The spacewalk is Russia's 28th supporting space station assembly and maintenance and the 153rd overall. It's the second for Kondratyev and third for Skripochka, who completed their first spacewalk together Jan. 21.

As is standard practice during a spacewalk from the Pirs airlock, some hatches are closed inside the station as a precaution for the unlikely event of a sudden depressurization.

Station commander Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri are positioned near their Soyuz lifeboat, while American Cady Coleman and Italian Paolo Nespoli remain on the other side of hatches in the U.S. segment with access to their Soyuz.

Today's spacewalk is expected to last five-and-a-half hours, wrapping up hours before a planned 4:50 p.m. EST attempt to launch a European cargo spacecraft to the station.

Tuesday's first launch attempt by an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, scrubbed because of a problem with ground support equipment.

No comments: