International Space Station Astronauts Likely to Conduct Spacewalk Repairs

International Space Station

International Space Station
NASA reported on Nov. 13, 2015, that astronauts aboard the International Space Station are likely to conduct repairs via spacewalk after the station suffered a short-circuit, which caused temporary power issues. Spaceflight 101, manned by Commander Scott Kelly, had a sudden power fluctuation that resulted in some devices of the Space Station operating on a downgraded power supply. However, all six astronauts are safe and the power issues did not cause serious damage to the Space Station’s components. The decision to do spacewalk repairs is likely to be made after thorough investigations of the damage caused by the short-circuit.

NASA spokesman Dan Huot told reporters that normalcy will soon return to the station. He believes the experienced crew can operate with alternative power channels, as this is reminiscent to a similar failure in 2014. The orbiting lab was using eight channels when the current-switching device was tripped. Huot reiterated that the station can still operate normally with the seven channels available. He also added that the power channels, now in use, do not pose a risk to the space station.

The International Space Station can rely on a number of NASA’s commercial suppliers to bring the required replacement components. According to reports, NASA intends to launch SpaceX with the required electrical parts in early 2016. However, SpaceX failed to launch in June 2015, and has since been grounded. The alternative is Orbital ATK, which exploded on its launch in October 2014. According to Daily Star Gazette, Orbital ATK is likely to make a shipment in two weeks from its base at Wallops Island, Virginia.

International Space StationAstronaut Kelly, who has clocked more than 233 days in space, is no stranger to spacewalk repairs. On Oct. 28, 2015, astronauts Kelly and Kjell Lindgren opened the hatch of the International Space Station to repair an ammonia cooling system that had been previously repaired in 2012. The astronauts are expected to expertly handle the short-circuit problem because of their previous spacewalk experience.

It is, therefore, likely that the station might need to conduct another spacewalk repair to fix the short-circuit. Experienced astronauts have reiterated that the safety of the crew should remain a high priority in these situations. Astronauts must be precise when working in extreme atmospheric conditions, which can be a source of frustration.

Astronaut Douglas Wheelock, who has six spacewalks under his belt, acknowledges the danger that comes with spacewalks. In an interview with National Geographic last month, the astronaut stated that space work can be “fraught with peril.” In his statement, he also talked about the possibility of being hit by a micrometeorite and how this would result in the astronaut’s spacesuit tearing, causing a fatal leak of oxygen. Wheelock added that spacewalks require a high level of attention to detail since, “a number of things can go awfully wrong.” In 2013, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano had to battle air loss after his helmet filled with water during a spacewalk.

NASA maintains that if the decision is made to conduct spacewalk repairs on the International Space Station, they will bank on the experienced astronauts. The space agency has not yet given a definite date as to when the spare electrical equipment will be sent by rocket.

By Shepherd Mutsvara
Edited by Jeanette Smith

Sources: International Space Station Suffers Short Circuit
Daily Star Gazette: International Space Station Facing Power Short Circuits
IBNLive: International Space Suffers Short Circuit, Power Systems Degraded

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Inline Image Courtesy of NASA Marshal’s Flight Center’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License