Russian cosmonauts ventured outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Dec. 27, at 4:07 p.m. EST, to fit photographic equipment aboard the space station’s exterior. Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy, of Expedition 38, donned Orlan spacesuits to complete the latest spacewalk, lasting a total duration of eight-hours and seven-minutes. The spacewalk set a new Russian endurance record, beating the previous seven-hour 29-minute record set by Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin in August.
The main objective behind the mission involved installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras, required for a Canadian streaming-video service, which are designed to produce a telecommunication link to relay Earth observation imagery. The streaming capabilities, aboard the ISS, are part of a project being developed by Vancouver-based company UrtheCast.
UrtheCast’s two cameras are set to stream footage of Earth to “… anyone with an internet connection.” Close to real-time, users will be granted access to Earth imagery through the company’s socially integrated web platform, using a basic UrtheCast profile. In addition, the service will provide satellite video imagery of “world-changing events and locations,” along with a subscription service that provides real-time imagery of an individual’s favorite locations. Using a one-meter resolution video camera, the company plans to release a series of Ultra HD, 4K-resolution videos of Earth that will last approximately 60 seconds.
The Russian duo departed from the station’s Pirs airlock at 8 a.m. EST. The preliminary stages of the spacewalk went to plan, as both Kotov and Ryazanskiy worked in unison to affix the high-resolution telescope to a biaxial pointing platform on the Zvezda service module, along with a fixed medium-resolution camera and a foot restraint.
Telemetry and data cables were routed to both cameras. Alas, when flight control operatives – situated at the Russian Mission Control Center in Germany – attempted to establish telemetry and electrical connectivity, both medium and high-resolution cameras failed to provide the data anticipated.
In light of this, Kotov and Ryazanskiy were instructed to retrace their steps and double-check the connections between the cameras and the patch panels aboard the command module. After troubleshooting initiatives failed, the pair returned to the airlock with the devices to facilitate further inspection and snap detailed images of the electrical connectors that had been previously configured.
According to Spaceflight Now, NASA’s mission control commentator, Rob Navias, voiced the following considerations during the spacewalk:
“The exact cause of the problem is not known at this point. The Russian flight control team will spend some time, obviously, analyzing the data and trying to understand from the analysis of these photographs whether or not the problem lies in the electrical connectors themselves or in the cameras, which of course would be a more significant issue.”
However, the spacewalk did not end in complete failure, since the Russian cosmonauts were able to successfully accomplish additional objectives. They removed the Vsplesk experiment package, introduced aboard the ISS to monitor seismic effects and study phenomena in the Earth’s crust, magnetosphere, ionosphere and Van Allen belt – one of several layers of energetic charged particles, considered to have originated from solar wind, held in place around the Earth by its magnetic field.
After jettisoning the package into space, Kotov and Ryazanskiy substituted it with a more sophisticated alternative – Seismoprognoz. Now connected to a Zvezda handrail, it is hoped the new hardware will help with the development of an algorithm to detect “… plasma features of earthquakes and anthropogenic impacts…”
The latest excursion represented the third occasion that Expedition 38 members had conducted an ISS spacewalk, within the space of a single week. NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins recently completed two successful spacewalks to replace a degraded cooling pump module that possessed an internal valve, lodged in an incorrect position.
By James Fenner