Cosmonauts successfully conclude Russian spacewalk

by Pete Harding

Two Russian cosmonauts have been hard at work outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, conducting a spacewalk for the purposes of routine maintenance on the Russian Segment (RS). The spacewalk, known as Russian Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA)-32, got underway at 2:03 PM GMT and lasted over six and half hours.

EVA procedures:

The two Russian cosmonauts that conducted the EVA were Pavel Vinogradov, who launched to the ISS on March 28, and Roman Romanenko, who launched on December 19 last year.

This EVA – the 167th in support of ISS assembly and maintenance – was the seventh in total for the already highly experienced Vinogradov, but the first for Romanenko.

Vinogradov became the world’s oldest spacewalker with this EVA. At 59 years old and eclipses the previous record-holder, Story Musgrave, who was 58 when he flew the Hubble SM-1 mission in 1993.

Both spacewalkers were wearing Russian Orlan-MK spacesuits, both of which were marked with blue stripes. Romanenko’s suit included a helmet camera from a US EMU spacesuit installed, for live video of the EVA worksite.

Obstanovka installedOnce the hatch of the Docking Compartment-1 (DC-1) “Pirs” was opened at 2:03 PM GMT, the spacewalkers began preparations to egress the Russian airlock in order to begin their first task, the installation of the Obstanovka experiment on the outside of the “Zvezda” Service Module (SM).

Obstanovka will “study plasma waves and the effect of space weather on Earth’s ionosphere”.

This task required a lot of cabling work to be conducted, and involved the jettison of two probe containers and a cable reel.

“Ok byeeeeee…!” joked Romanenko, who provided some memorable quotes during his first spacewalk, not least about his fear of the dark. “I don’t like to work at night time, I’m afraid of the darkness,” not long after joking about how “for some reason the Earth is round.”

Both antennas were deployed successfully, although the antenna on Probe 1 required some wire cutting skills from the Cosmonauts.

ATV-4 TaskThe spacewalk also included work on the Aft end of the “Zvezda” SM, where the duo installed a replacement retro-reflector target for the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-4, as the existing target caused problems during the dockings of ATV-2 in 2011 and ATV-3 in 2012.

The two spacewalkers then retrieved a container from the Biorisk experiment, which has been mounted outside the station for some time in order to investigate the effects of microbes on spacecraft structures.

The retrieved container was brought back inside the ISS for later return to Earth for analysis.

The panel that got awayWith the spacewalk extended past the six hour mark, the duo then went to retrieve one section of the Vinoslivost experiment, which for the past few years has been exposing materials samples to space.

However, as the panel was removed, Romanenko noted “it flipped off and flew away!”

The panel, which is now lost in space, headed towards one of the solar panels, but missed any contact with the Station’s structure. It was also confirmed that the panel poses no threat of recontact with the ISS.

The two spacewalkers then ingressed DC-1, closed the hatch to mark the end of the EVA at six hours and 38 minutes – and began re-pressurization procedures.

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Future EVAs:

Russian EVA-32 kicked off a very busy year of spacewalks at the ISS, a year which will see no less than eight EVAs performed on both the Russian and American segments of the station.

US EVAThe next spacewalk to be conducted will be Russian EVA-33 on June 26, followed closely by US EVAs 21 and 22 on July 9 and July 16.

Next up, Russian EVAs 34 and 35 will both be performed in August, and in November, a very special Russian EVA-36 will be performed, which will include a “relay” with the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch.

Finally, in December, Russian EVA-37 will be performed to round out the year’s EVA activity.

However, the EVA activity in 2013 will pale in comparison to 2014’s EVAs, which are already set to include at least 10 separate excursions, many of them taking place in the early part of the year, as they are related to the setup and installation of the new Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) set to arrive at the ISS in December 2013.

(Images: NASA)

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