Friday, May 20, 2011

Spacewalkers stow, install experiments

Endeavour spacewalkers this morning have retrieved two experiments outside the International Space Station and secured them to shuttle Endeavour for a ride home.

Astronaut Greg Chamitoff had some trouble latching one of the briefcase-sized experiment containers to the sidewall of the orbiter's payload bay, but succeeded with help from partner Drew Fuestel.

A short time later, Fuestel installed a new experiment set on a pallet on the right side of the station's main truss, placing it in a spot vacated by one of the two just removed.

The experiments known as MISSE 7 had exposed small material and electronics samples to the harsh space environment since November 2009.

The materials and electronics, including solar cells, coatings, thermal protection, optics, sensors, and computing elements, have the potential to increase the performance and useful life of the next generation of satellites and launch systems, according to principal investigator Phillip Jenkins of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
The new experiment, MISSE 8, will test materials and processing elements that could have applications in the design of future spacecraft.
"I'm sure the (MISSE) team is really happy today," mission specialist Mike Fincke radioed to the spacewalkers from inside Endeavour.
"Glad we can be of service," Fuestel replied.
Chamitoff returned to the airlock to recharge his oxygen supply. His next task was to install a light on a rail cart while Fuestel installed a protective cover on a rotating solar array joint. The cover was removed during a November 2007 spacewalk.

The spacewalk began at 3:10 a.m. and is scheduled to last until about 9:45 a.m.

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