NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and his European Space Agency counterpart Thomas Pesquet have successfully deployed a new solar array on the side of the International Space Station.
According to NASA, Kimbrough and Pesquet unfolded the solar array, bolted it into place, and connected cables to the station’s power supply. The astronauts also removed and stowed hardware in preparation for releasing a second solar array from the flight support structure for installation.
The pair will work towards the second solar array upgrade, which will take place during another spacewalk, tentatively scheduled for June 25.
NASA is upgrading six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays to ensure sufficient power supply for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for the Artemis exploration programme, as well as utilization and commercialization.
This was the eighth spacewalk for Kimbrough, the fourth for Pesquet, and the fourth they have conducted together.
The spacewalk to upgrade the solar installation took 6 hours and 28 minutes and was the eighth spacewalk of the year.
The eight current arrays are capable of generating up to 160 kilowatts of power during orbital daytime, about half of which is stored in the station’s batteries for use while the station is not in sunlight, according to NASA.
Each new solar array will produce more than 20 kilowatts of electricity, eventually totalling 120 kilowatts (120,000 watts) of augmented power. In addition, the remaining uncovered solar array pair and partially uncovered original arrays will continue to generate approximately 95 kilowatts of power for a total of up to 215 kilowatts (215,000 watts) of power available to support station operations at completion.
The solar arrays are delivered to the International Space Station by Elon Musks’s SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft in planned resupply missions. The installation of each solar array will require two spacewalks: one to prepare the worksite with a modification kit and another to install the new solar array.