Astronauts complete 6-hour spacewalk to install solar panels on the ISS

Astronauts complete over six-hour spacewalk to install solar array

Astronauts have ventured out on their second spacewalk in less than a week to install powerful new solar panels outside the International Space Station.

France’s Thomas Pesquet and Nasa’s Shane Kimbrough picked up where they left off on Wednesday, when spacesuit and other problems prevented them from unrolling the first in a series of high-tech solar panels.

‘Remember: You are butterflies with biceps today,’ astronaut Megan McArthur radioed from inside.

The spacewalkers managed to bolt down the first solar wing last week, but had to delay making the electrical connections and unfurling the panel to its full 63 feet in length.

These new solar wings are designed to roll out like a red carpet, unlike the station’s old ones that unfolded like an accordion.

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, left, and Nasa astronaut Shane Kimbrough work outside the International Space Station (Credits: AP)
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, left, and Nasa astronaut Shane Kimbrough work outside the International Space Station (Credits: AP)

They will give the ageing station a much-needed electrical boost, as demand for experiments and space tourists grows.

Nasa originally allotted two spacewalks for the job – one for each solar panel being installed.

But managers added a third spacewalk, given all the earlier problems.

Pesquet and Kimbrough will go back out on Friday to complete work on the second panel delivered by Space X earlier this month.

This NASA photo obtained June 20, 2021 shows Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet(L) of ESA (European Space Agency) attached to an articulating portable foot restraint on the end of the Canadarm2 robotic arm carrying new roll out solar arrays towards the International Space Station's P-6 truss structure, next to US astronaut Shane Kimbrough on June 16, 2021. - A French and an American astronaut embarked on another spacewalk on June 20, 2021 to complete the installation of new solar panels to boost power supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), they announced on Twitter.
Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet (L) of ESA (European Space Agency) attached to an articulating portable foot restraint on the end of the Canadarm2 robotic arm carrying new roll out solar arrays towards the International Space Station’s P-6 truss structure (AFP)

This first pair will augment the space station’s oldest solar wings, which are degrading after 20 years of continuous operation.

SpaceX will deliver two more pairs over the next year.

Although smaller than the originals, the new solar panels can generate considerably more power.

The space station needs this re-energising if Nasa hopes to keep the space station running the rest of this decade, with private guests paying millions of dollars to come aboard.

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