A Russian spacewalk is underway outside the International Space Station (ISS) to continue preparations to fully activate the Russian Nauka science module, which was launched to the station precisely one year ago today.
The spacewalk features a non-Russian crewmember, which is a rare occurrence on Russian EVAs, or extravehicular activities. The spacewalking duo of cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos and astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) began their EVA at 14:50 UTC.
For Russian EVA-54, both spacewalkers will wear Russian Orlan spacesuits.
Non-Russian crewmembers rarely get to perform Russian spacewalks as Russian spacewalks are usually performed only by cosmonauts, with the US and international crewmembers using the NASA Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuits on US-segment spacewalks.
In this case, Cristoforetti is performing the spacewalk since many of the tasks are related to the ESA-built European Robotic Arm (ERA), which resides on the Russian Nauka module and was recently activated for the first time on a previous Russian spacewalk.
The spacewalk’s other tasks center around preparatory tasks ahead of the transfer of a scientific airlock and radiator to the Nauka module in the near future. Both the airlock and radiator were launched to the ISS in 2010, long ahead of Nauka’s arrival at the station last year.
The airlock and radiator will greatly increase the science capabilities of the Nauka module, with the airlock allowing for external experiments outside of the Russian Segment, serviced by the European Robotic Arm.
EVA-54 was delayed from its originally planned date due to teething issues with ERA’s end effector which could not grapple its needed base point on the Nauka module.
Those issues have now been resolved.
Furthermore, claims by the former head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, that Russia was suspending cooperation with ESA on ERA had threatened to delay the spacewalk further.
Despite the rhetoric, cooperation has seemingly continued unaffected.
The first task for the two spacewalkers will be to deploy 10 nanosatellites. Cristoforetti will set up a camera on a handrail to record the deployment whilst Artemyev will ingress a foot restraint and manually deploy the 10 small satellites in an aft direction relative to the station’s velocity vector.
The ERA will then transfer over to Nauka on a future spacewalk.
The ERA boom will be stowed on a base point outside the Poisk airlock, with a box-like hardware mounting platform first being removed from the Poisk base point to clear the way for the boom.
The mounting platform will then be taken to the Nauka module and installed onto a base point there, which will allow future hardware such as external experiments to be attached to the outside of Nauka.
The spacewalkers will then head to the ERA and remove a protective camera cover on end effector #2. Following this, the ERA’s External Man-Machine Interface (EMMI) control panel will be set to storage mode.
Artemyev will then reconfigure some multi-layer insulation on the rear of the Nauka module, where the ERA was previously stowed. This will be done to prepare the area for the future installation of a platform that will allow for the mounting of large objects onto Nauka.
The ERA camera protective cover will then be re-installed, following which a retainer will be installed on the Strela-1 crane.
The Strela is a manually operated telescopic boom that performs a similar function to the robotic arm on the US segment in that it allows for the maneuvering of large objects around the outside of the Russian segment.
However, with ERA now on station, the Strela booms are now used as translation aids. Strela-1 was previously extended from its base point on the Poisk airlock down to the bottom of the Nauka module to allow spacewalkers to translate down the boom for easier access to Nauka.
On today’s spacewalk, the Strela-2 boom, which is based on the forward end of the Zarya module, will be extended back towards the Poisk airlock.
This will create a translation pathway between Poisk and Zarya. This pathway will be needed on future spacewalks to transfer Nauka’s airlock and radiator.
Following the installation of a retainer to hold Strela-2’s end effector to the Poisk module, both spacewalkers will head back inside the Poisk airlock to conclude the EVA.
(Lead image: Outfitting Nauka on a previous EVA in April 2022. Credit: NASA/Roscosmos)
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