Two Russian cosmonauts, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, ventured out into the vacuum of space for a spacewalk on Thursday, tasked with carrying out important work – including the installation of an antenna – on outside of the International Space Station (ISS) Russian segment. The initial work proved to be frustrating for the cosmonauts, until they pressed on and completed all their required tasks.
The primary objectives of the spacewalk were focused at servicing the exterior of the Zvezda service module and the experiments mounted in that location.
The cosmonaut duo were tasked with installing an automated phased antenna array (AFAR), which will serve as part of the Russian command and telemetry system.
Artemyev and Skvortsov also relocated a part of the Obstanovka experiment – which is used to monitor the presence of charged particles and plasma in the environment of Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
Other tasks included verifying the correct installation of the universal work platform (URM-D), taking samples from one of Zvezda’s windows, and jettisoning an experiment frame.
The two Expedition 40 members – Skvortsov and Artemyev – donned their Orlan spacesuits and exited the Pirs airlock for what was planned to be a 6 hour 26 minute excursion. In the end, it lasted an hour longer.
The extra-vehicular activity (EVA) was designated EVA-38 and was the 180th spacewalk in support of the station.
Once Skvortsov (designated EV-1) and Artemyev (EV-2) egressed Pirs, they picked up the AFAR antenna block with them and translated along a series of handrails to the installation location between planes II and III on the service module’s large diameter section.
This proved to be troublesome, with one of the three pins requiring the alternative solution of a wire tie to secure it. This caused a large amount of frustration, with one of the cosmonauts sounding angry/upset over the communication loop, while breathing very heavily. The duo were told to take a break shortly afterwards.
After they installed the antenna block to a pair of handrails, the cosmonauts connected the antennas to the service module by mating cables to five connectors located inside a protective box on the installation site. By then, the duo were 40 minutes behind schedule.
A functional checkout by Mission Control Moscow followed.
With the antenna work completed, the spacewalkers translated along Zvezda’s hull to the Obstanovka experiment. Artemyev and Skvortsov moved one of the experiment’s blocks further aft along the rails on which the experiment is installed.
This task was concluded well ahead of schedule, allowing the spacewalkers to catch up on their timelines.
Skvortsov then took samples of Zvezda window number 2 to determine the condition of the porthole.
The next task on the cosmonaut’s EVA timeline was a checkout of the URM-D universal work platform, where the commercial Earth observing cameras were installed during the previous Russian EVA.
The EVA crew assessed the overall operating status of the platform and tightened screws as necessary.
The final task was deferred from one of the previous spacewalks.
This involved the cosmonauts removing a payload boom from the MPAC&SEED experiment frame and installing the boom on a handrail.
They demounted two experiments from MPAC&SEED – TMTC and SVPI – and then installed the experiments on the payload boom. Finally, they removed the now-unoccupied experiment frame and jettison it away from the Station.
Although Skvortsov had already enjoyed one long duration stay on the ISS – while Artemyev had participated in development of the current version of the Orlan spacesuit – this was be the first spacewalking experience for both cosmonauts.
In order to be told apart from each other on the video feed, Artemyev wore a suit with red stripes, while Skvortsov’s Orlan had blue stripes on it.
Following a positive experience from recent Russian EVA’s, both cosmonauts wore HD cameras on their wrists to record their exploits on the outside of the Station.
Skvortsov and Artemyev both arrived at the ISS onboard Soyuz TMA-12M in March.
(Images via NASA and Roscosmos).