NASA astronauts conduct their third spacewalk in 3 weeks

Rodiano Bonacci
Luglio 18, 2020

NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy (L) and Robert Behnken prepare their spacesuits in June for a series of spacewalks at the International Space Station, including an assignment planned for Thursday.

The NASA astronauts who traveled to the International Space Station in SpaceX's first crewed flight in May are expected to return to Earth on August 2 after spending two months in orbit, a NASA spokesman said on Friday.

Astronauts have removed 48 aging power cells, and 23 of the newer 400-pound batteries were installed - during 11 spacewalks.

The next spacewalk will be the 300th involving US astronauts since Ed White stepped out of his Gemini 4 capsule on June 3, 1965.

Each truss segment contains two power channels, each with its own solar arrays and set of batteries. Both Behnken and Cassidy each now have nine spacewalks to their credit. They were aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon during the Demo-2 mission.

The effort to replace the batteries began in January 2017 when Expedition 50 astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson ventured outside to begin the labor-intensive process on the S4 Truss segment.

The astronauts replaced six nickel-hydrogen batteries with three new lithium-ion batteries, with NASA nearing completion of a two-year project to upgrade the space station's power system.

The final spacewalk, EVA-68, is now planned to be undertaken on July 21st, with Behnken and Cassidy tasked with removing the final Ni-H2 battery and installing the final three lithium-ion batteries. "Have fun out there", astronaut Doug Hurley urged from inside.

The battery replacements, which will have a 20-year lifetime, will put the station in a much better configuration for the long term, said Kenneth Todd, deputy International Space Station program manager, during a recent NASA press conference.

"When the space station is in the sun, it's collecting energy and it needs to store for when it's in the dark", he said. "And so periodically that maintenance is required".

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