Washington (AFP) June 13, 2007
Two Atlantis shuttle astronauts went Wednesday on a second space walk of four planned for the mission, to retract a solar array aboard the International Space Station, NASA said. Pat Forrester and Steve Swanson emerged from the airlock of the International Space Station (ISS) decompression chamber at 1828 GMT. The astronauts worked 90 minutes on a 73-meter (240-foot) solar array on the starboard side of the ISS, "fluffing" it, NASA said, to ease full retraction on Thursday.
Retracting the P6 array allows another set of arrays to track the sun, leaving to a later mission the task of redeploying the P6 array to another position on a different truss.
Retraction of the solar panels began at 1047 GMT, but by 1830 GMT only seven and a half of the 31 and a half panels had been returned to their box.
NASA's mission control in Houston, Texas decided at 2015 GMT to continue the job of retracting the array by remote control on Thursday, and had the astronauts attend to other tasks set for the space walk.
The men were to set up a Solar Alpha Rotary Joint, removing restraints holding it in place for the trip into space. The joint will allow the arrays to turn and face the sun.
Mission specialist Jim Reilly coordinated the space walk, and pilot Lee Archambault was at the controls of the station's robotic arm, used in the task.
Two more space walks are scheduled for the mission.
Meanwhile, commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineers Oleg Kotov and Clayton Anderson transferred fresh supplies to the ISS and cargo destined for Earth onto the Atlantis.
On Tuesday, a new set of solar panels unfurled, after they were put in place by the space station's robotic arm and connected by two space walkers Monday.
The accordion-like arrays, brought from Earth in the hold of Atlantis to the station hundreds of miles above the Earth, will boost the power-generating capacity of the ISS so it can host new modules from Europe and Japan.
earlier related report
Television pictures broadcast by NASA showed the vast panels unfurling, after they were put in place by the space station's robotic arm and connected by the two space walkers Monday.
The accordion-like installations, brought from Earth in the hold of Atlantis to the station hundreds of miles above the Earth, then finished their slow, delicate spreading on Tuesday at 1900 GMT, the US space agency said.
They will boost the power-generating capacity of the ISS so it can host new modules from Europe and Japan, being With the 73-meter-wide (240-foot), 16-tonne section holding the solar arrays in operation after the space walkers activated its electrical connections, the visiting astronauts were looking ahead for their next foray outside the ISS on Wednesday.
Mission specialists Patrick Forrester and Steven Swanson are due to step out at 1803 GMT Wednesday on the second of the mission's four space walks.
During a scheduled outing of six and a half hours, the astronauts plan to fold up another, older solar array to allow the new array to rotate and catch a maximum of sunshine for electricity production. The older array is to be installed on a different part of the station on a future shuttle mission.
NASA said Monday it would add two days to Atlantis's mission to allow astronauts to repair a thermal blanket on the vessel's exterior, which was slightly damaged by the extreme air pressure of blasting through Earth's atmosphere.
It raised fears that graphite structures underneath the blanket would be damaged when the shuttle powers back to Earth.
John Shannon, head of the NASA mission management team, said the repair would be simple and quick. The space agency had yet to decide if the repair job would be undertaken on the third or fourth space walk.
NASA has played down concerns over the tear to the thermal blanket since it was noticed after Friday's take-off. Shannon earlier said the tear is in a spot not exposed to the highest heat as the shuttle breaks through Earth's atmosphere.
Such damage is a concern after the Columbia shuttle disintegrated as it returned to Earth in February 2003. This was due to breaks in its heat shield caused by foam insulation peeling off its fuel tank and striking a wing during the launch.
All seven astronauts aboard perished and the shuttle program was put on hold for nearly two and a half years while the space agency sought to overcome the problem, modifying the external fuel tank and setting procedures to check the heat shield while in orbit.
Adding a fourth space walk to the Atlantis crew's schedule to fix the thermal blanket will mean a mission of 13 days in space rather than the originally planned 11. The shuttle will return to Earth on June 21.
The new solar arrays will dramatically increase ISS power generation to a potential 14 kilowatts to help serve planned science modules from the European and Japanese space agencies.
The Atlantis mission is the first this year. An earlier launch planned for March was scrubbed after the spacecraft was damaged by hail in a freak storm in February.
The ISS is a key stepping stone for preparing manned missions to Mars. NASA plans at least 12 more shuttle missions to finish the 100-billion-dollar station by 2010, when the agency retires its three-shuttle fleet, plus one voyage to the Hubble space telescope.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Shuttle Mission Extended For Repair Job
Washington (AFP) June 12, 2007
NASA has added two days to the shuttle Atlantis's mission so that astronauts can repair a damaged thermal blanket on the vessel's exterior, the US space agency said late Monday. The decision to add a fourth space walk to the Atlantis crew's schedule to fix the thermal blanket will mean a mission of 13 days in space rather than the originally planned 11 days, said John Shannon, head of the mission management team at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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