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June 16, 2021

by Marcia Dunn

Space suit issues prevented astronauts from completing the installation of powerful new solar panels outside the International Space Station on Wednesday.

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NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough encountered two spacesuit issues midway through the seven-hour spacewalk that forced him to temporarily retreat into the airlock to reset his gear. The interruption put Kimbrough and the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet an hour behind, then they struggled to unfold the boom of the solar panel before the time ran out.

The two are supposed to be on their way again on Sunday. However, it is unclear whether this will be delayed or whether the astronauts will complete work on the first solar panel or start a second.

NASA wants to revive the aging space station with increasing demand for visits. But there is no urgency to do so, said Mission Control commentator Rob Navias, as the old solar panels are providing a lot of electricity for the time being. They will continue to operate in a degraded state even after the new ones are put into service.

Mission Control emphasized that Kimbrough was safe the whole time, despite problems with his suit’s display panel and a volatile surge in pressure Cooling system. His control panel came back on, and Mission Control continued to monitor his suit’s cooling system.

It was the first in a series of spacewalks to equip the aging orbital outpost with six smaller but more powerful solar wings. The electric thrust is needed to accommodate the paying passengers who are expected to drop by, starting with a Russian film crew this fall.

NASA put extra security in place when Kimbrough and Pesquet were working on the station’s primary power grid to avoid an electric shock to avoid. The duo performed the most dangerous parts of the spacewalk on the night side of the earth to prevent the station’s old solar panels from sucking up sunlight and generating electricity. The metal surfaces of their spacesuits were covered to avoid any contact.

The first of these new solar modules, introduced by SpaceX earlier this month, has been in continuous operation alongside the station’s oldest power-producing wings for more than 20 years. < The astronauts had to haul the bundled solar wing – 10 feet long and 4 feet wide (3 meters long and 1 meter wide) – to the work site on the far left end of the station. They succeeded in screwing it in, but the outriggers could not be unfolded due to a problem in the bracket.

Once properly installed, the solar panel rolls out like a 19 meter long red carpet.

NASA wants that the space station will continue to do scientific research this decade, and space tourists will continue to tax the electricity system. A Russian film director and actress will be visiting for filming in October, followed by wealthy entrepreneurs setting out from Kazakhstan and Cape Canaveral to open the private space market.

© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

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