On Wednesday morning, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet will conduct a spacewalk to begin the installation of new solar arrays. The panels will help provide a power boost to the space station.
Pesquet will be wearing red stripes on his spacesuit as extravehicular crew member 1 and Kimbrough will wear the suit without stripes as extravehicular crew member 2.
The two astronauts will continue these upgrades during a spacewalk on Sunday. These are the 239th and 240th spacewalks in support of assembling, maintaining and upgrading the station.
Kimbrough and Pesquet will install the second solar array on Sunday.
The solar arrays arrived at the space station on June 5 after launching on the 22nd SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply mission. The space station’s robotic Canadarm2 was used to remove the solar arrays from the spacecraft last Thursday. The arrays are rolled up like carpet and are 750 pounds (340 kilograms) and 10 feet (3 meters) wide.
Once the arrays are unfurled and bolted into place by the astronauts, they will be about 63 feet (19 meters) long and 20 feet (6 meters) wide. This unfurling process will take about six minutes.
Once the astronauts put the initial bolts in place at the top, they’ll let the array go and watch. This process won’t be visible to cameras on the station given its location, so Kimbrough’s high-definition helmet camera will capture this deployment.
Inside the space station, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur will help put the arrays into place using Canadarm2.
To protect the astronauts since they are working around electrical connectors, the ground crew has been busy conducting a plasma forecast to determine what kind of electrical charge the space station will be in during the walk, according to Kieth Johnson, spacewalk officer.
Metallic aspects of the spacesuits will be covered to prevent metal contact that could cause electric shock. The time of the spacewalk has been planned so the giant solar arrays will be in darkness and not generating power.
These will be the seventh and eighth career spacewalks for Kimbrough and the third and fourth for Pesquet — and it’s not the first time these two have taken a walk outside the space station together.
Kimbrough and Pesquet were on the space station in 2017 and previously conducted two spacewalks together to replace aging nickel-hydrogen batteries with new, longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries.
While the current solar arrays on the space station are still functioning, they have been supplying power to the space station for more than 20 years and are showing some signs of wear after long-term exposure to the space environment. The arrays were originally designed to last 15…