French and American astronauts completed a six-hour spacewalk while installing new solar panels to boost power supply to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA said.
“It’s a great team effort every time and I couldn’t be happier to be back with @astro_kimbrough,” Frenchman Thomas Pesquet tweeted on Sunday, referring to his American colleague Shane Kimbrough. Pesquet is with the European Space Agency, Kimbrough with NASA.
The two men, who arrived at the space station in late April, activated the internal batteries in their spacesuits at 11:42 GMT and then opened the ISS airlock hatch.
They then continued with the work of positioning, assembling and deploying six new generation solar panels, called iROSA, for Roll-Out Solar Array.
The solar wing unrolled like a red carpet once the last set of bolts was released, relying solely on pent-up energy. The slow but steady extension took 10 minutes, and the station cameras provided live television views. “It’s beautiful,” Pesquet yelled.
“Well done, both of you,” Mission Control responded once the operation was complete. “It was great to see.”
As the six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk concluded, Kimbrough, who has three children, wished all the flight controller dads a “Happy Father’s Day”. “Thank you for working with us on a Sunday.”
The new solar wing, with five more to come, will give the old station a much-needed electrical boost, as demand for space experiments and tourists grows.
The 19-meter (60-foot) panels were delivered to the station earlier this month by an unmanned SpaceX flight. The astronauts are scheduled to complete the installation of a second set of solar panels on Friday.
The panels will power both daily operations and research and science projects carried out on the ISS and are expected to have a useful life of 15 years.
A first spacewalk on Wednesday ran into several issues, notably problems with Kimbrough’s spacesuit. He temporarily lost data on his spacesuit screen and then suffered a brief spike in the suit’s pressure reading.
Sunday’s departure was the fourth time the two astronauts ventured into space together. In addition to Wednesday’s spacewalk, they did so twice on a 2017 mission, attached by tethers to the space station as it orbits Earth at an altitude of about 400 kilometers (250 miles).
In all, there have been 240 spacewalks of the ISS as astronauts carry out assembly and maintenance work, as well as updating, the station.
Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism