Spacewalk proved to be troublesome

by Chris Bergin

The 73rd spacewalk from the International Space Station (ISS) began at 6:17pm (Central Time) – one hour later than scheduled, in what was a problematic EVA.

While concerns were raised earlier over two covers being jettisoned during the spacewalk, one of the scheduled tasks on the EVA itself proved to be unsuccessful. The EVA also included a golf shot being conducted as a commercial activity.

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What was to be a six hour spacewalk began one hour later than scheduled – reducing the total EVA time to five hours – due to problems with a cooling hose on Russian cosmonaut Mikhail (Misha) Tyurin’s EVA suit.

The Spacewalkers also struggled to open the hatch to begin their work schedule on the outside of the station.

The first element of the spacewalk was a commercial stunt of hitting a golf ball off the ISS. Despite some issues with the stance Tyurin suffered from, he managed to get one shot off – out of a potential three.

Work on what proved to be a troublesome antenna on a recently arrived Progress re-supply ship was worked on next. The antenna was found to be jammed next to a handrail.

Attempts to move it back into a stowed position – including use of a crowbar – failed. Remote signals from Russian controllers also attempted to aid the movement of the antenna, but that also failed.

Also scheduled on the spacewalk was the jettisioning of two thermal covers from an experiement housed on the outside of the Station.

This part of the EVA raised concerns that they may interfere with Shuttle Discovery’s orbit during STS-116 next month, but the problem was noted too late for the schedule to be changed.

A special meeting was called just this morning, where concerns were raised over where those covers would end up in orbit, which – it was claimed – may still be in a conflicing orbit with the soon-to-arrive Shuttle Discovery on STS-116.

‘In a special meeting this morning, the IMMT (ISS Mission Management Team) discussed the possibility that two of the items to be jettisoned during the spacewalk may not have decayed at the time of STS-116/12A.1 arrival, – both soft thermal covers of the BTN-M1 experiment,’ noted today’s ISS On Orbit Status Report.

‘With a mass of 500 gram and 200 g and dimensions ~320×300 mm & ~200×200 mm, respectively, their orbital lifetime will depend on their (unpredictable) orientation after being thrown overboard (most likely: tumbling; least likely: stable at max cross section i.e. max drag).’

However, the meeting also concluded that changing the plan for the EVA was too late to implement. Managers will rely on tracking the covers, with future evaluations being carried out on a potential conflict with the upcoming Shuttle mission.

‘Since Moscow has determined that the EVA cannot be modified this late for retrieving the covers on board or temporarily stowing them outside, the IMMT approved the jettisoning with the proviso that attempts are to be made.

‘(Those provisions are: (a) obtain a maximum amount of data from Space Command tracking, (2) capture video of the jettisoning without repositioning of the SSRMS, and (c) use the data to put together a risk probability to support the 12A.1 launch decision in two weeks – there is no concern about ISS recontact.’

Near the end of the spacewalk it was confirmed that the two covers were actually jettisoned during this spacewalk.

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