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The International Space Station will get a power boost during a spacewalk on Saturday as NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio install a solar panel outside the floating lab.
The spacewalk is on track to begin at 7:25 a.m. ET and will last approximately seven hours, with live coverage streamed on NASA’s website.
During the event, Cassada will serve as Extravehicle Member 1 and wear a red striped suit, while Rubio will wear an unmarked white costume as Extravehicle Member 2. The duo performed their first spacewalk together in November. Against the backdrop of a sweeping view of Earth, the team assembled a mounting bracket on the right side of the space station’s truss.
This device makes it possible to install more solar panels, called iROSA, to increase the electrical power of the space station.
The first of two solar panels will be installed outside the station in June 2021. The plan is to add a total of six iROSAs, which will potentially increase power generation on the space station by more than 30% a once they are all operational.
Two more arrays were delivered to the space station Nov. 27 aboard SpaceX Dragon Commercial Resupply Mission 26, which also She carried dwarf tomato seeds and other experiments to the orbiting lab.
The paintings were rolled up like a carpet and weighed 750 pounds (340 kg) over 10 feet (3 m).
During Saturday’s spacewalk, Casada and Rubio will install a solar panel to increase the capacity of one of the space station’s eight power channels, located on the station’s right beam.
Once the astronauts unpack the array and put it in place, it will measure about 63 feet (19 meters) long and 20 feet (6 meters) wide.
The spacewalk duo will also disconnect the cable to reactivate another power channel that recently experienced an “unexpected trip” on Nov. 26.
“By isolating a section of the affected array, which was one of many damaged strings, the goal is to restore 75% of the array’s functionality,” according to a NASA statement.
Casada and Rubio will be spacewalking again on December 19 to install a second solar array on another feeder channel, located on the station’s port gear.
The space station’s original solar panels are still functional, but have been providing power there for more than 20 years and are showing signs of wear after long-term exposure to the space environment. The arrays were originally designed to last 15 years.
Wear can be caused by thrust shafts, which come from both station and station pushers Crew and cargo vehicles coming and going from the station, as well as small meteor wreckage.
The new solar panels are placed in front of the original panels. This is a good test for the new solar panels, as this same design will power parts of the planned Gateway lunar outpost, which will help humans return to the moon by NASA’s Artemis program.
New berries will have a similar life expectancy of 15 years. However, since the degradation of the original arrays was expected to be worse, the team will monitor the new arrays to test their true longevity, as they may last longer.