Two veteran astronauts will step out of the International Space Station today (June 26) on the first four complicated spacewalks to swap out outdated batteries on the orbiting lab.
In this spacewalk, NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Bob Behnken will be swapping out old nickel-hydrogen batteries on one of two power channels on the space stations with new lithium-ion batteries. The new batteries, which arrived at the space station on the uncrewed Japanese cargo ship HTV-9 vehicle last month, are smaller, lighter and more powerful than their aging predecessors and are designed to last longer on the station.
You can watch the spacewalk live here and on Space.com’s homepage, courtesy of NASA TV. The spacewalk will begin at about 7:35 a.m. EDT (1135 GMT), with the astronauts expected to spend up to 7 hours working outside the orbiting lab.
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Cassidy, the space station’s Expedition 63 crew commander, will lead today’s spacewalk (and the next in the series set for July 1). You can spot him in NASA’s broadcast by looking for the red stripes on his spacesuit. Behnken’s spacesuit will be all white with no stripes. Fellow NASA astronaut Doug Hurley and Russian cosmonaut Ivan Vagnerwill support the spacewalkers from inside the space station, assisting them in and out of their suits and assisting during the excursion itself.
The main goal for today’s spacewalk is to begin a solar array battery swap on the far starboard side of the space station’s backbone like the main truss. They’ll be workingt the starboard 6, or S6, truss location.
This will be Cassidy’s seventh career spacewalk and the eighth for Behnken.
“These guys come to us with 12 years of experience under their belt, each having spent over 30 hours outside the safe confines of the ISS inside an EMU, or extravehicular mobility unit, servicing the space station,” Allison Bolinger, the International Space Station spacewalk flight director, said June 24 during a pre-spacewalk media conference. “The added experience that Chris brings to the table is actually on his first shuttle mission STS-127. Back in 2009, he performed some battery EVAs out on the P6 side of the truss,” they added.
These battery swaps are the next in a long line of battery replacements that first began in January 2017. Last year, beginning in October 2019, astronauts kicked off a 10-spacewalk marathon to swap the batteries (and complete other repairs and upgrades on the station). The 2019 series of spacewalks also included the first all-woman spacewalk in history, which was conducted by NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch.