Russian spacewalk continues preps on Nauka module

by Pete Harding

A Russian spacewalk was completed outside the International Space Station (ISS) to continue preparations to fully activate the Russian Nauka science module, which was launched to the station precisely one year ago today. 

The spacewalk features a non-Russian crewmember, which is a rare occurrence on Russian EVAs, or extravehicular activities. The spacewalking duo of cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos and astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) began their EVA at 14:50 UTC.


For Russian EVA-54, both spacewalkers wore Russian Orlan spacesuits.

Non-Russian crewmembers rarely get to perform Russian spacewalks as Russian spacewalks are usually performed only by cosmonauts, with the US and international crewmembers using the NASA Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuits on US-segment spacewalks. 

In this case, Cristoforetti is performing the spacewalk since many of the tasks are related to the ESA-built European Robotic Arm (ERA), which resides on the Russian Nauka module and was recently activated for the first time on a previous Russian spacewalk.

The spacewalk’s other tasks center around preparatory tasks ahead of the transfer of a scientific airlock and radiator to the Nauka module in the near future. Both the airlock and radiator were launched to the ISS in 2010, long ahead of Nauka’s arrival at the station last year.

The airlock and radiator will greatly increase the science capabilities of the Nauka module, with the airlock allowing for external experiments outside of the Russian Segment, serviced by the European Robotic Arm.

EVA-54 was delayed from its originally planned date due to teething issues with ERA’s end effector which could not grapple its needed base point on the Nauka module.

Those issues have now been resolved.

Furthermore, claims by the former head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, that Russia was suspending cooperation with ESA on ERA had threatened to delay the spacewalk further.

The two spacewalkers for RS EVA-54. Artemyev will wear the suit with the red stripes and Samantha will wear the suit with the blue stripes. (Credit: NASA)

Despite the rhetoric, cooperation has seemingly continued unaffected.


The first task for the two spacewalkers was to deploy 10 nanosatellites. Cristoforetti set up a camera on a handrail to record the deployment whilst Artemyev entered a foot restraint and manually deployed the 10 small satellites in an aft direction relative to the station’s velocity vector.

The next task for the duo was to retrieve an adaptor for the ERA from the Poisk airlock. The adaptor is an extension boom for the ERA and will allow the arm to reach the stored Nauka airlock. 

The ERA will transfer over to Nauka on a future spacewalk.

The ERA boom was stowed on a base point outside the Poisk airlock, with a box-like hardware mounting platform first being removed from the Poisk base point to clear the way for the boom.

The mounting platform was then taken to the Nauka module and installed onto a base point there, which will allow future hardware such as external experiments to be attached to the outside of Nauka.

The spacewalkers then headed to the ERA and removed a protective camera cover on end effector #2. Following this, the ERA’s External Man-Machine Interface (EMMI) control panel was set to storage mode.

Artemyev then reconfigured some multi-layer insulation on the rear of the Nauka module, where the ERA was previously stowed. This was done to prepare the area for the future installation of a platform that will allow for the mounting of large objects onto Nauka. 

The ERA camera protective cover was then re-installed, following which a retainer was to be installed on the Strela-1 crane.

The Strela is a manually operated telescopic boom that performs a similar function to the robotic arm on the US segment in that it allows for the maneuvering of large objects around the outside of the Russian segment.

Overview of the European Robotic arm (ERA). (Credit: ESA/NASA)

However, with ERA now on station, the Strela booms are now used as translation aids. Strela-1 was previously extended from its base point on the Poisk airlock down to the bottom of the Nauka module to allow spacewalkers to translate down the boom for easier access to Nauka.

On today’s spacewalk, the Strela-2 boom, which is based on the forward end of the Zarya module, was to be extended back towards the Poisk airlock. This will create a translation pathway between Poisk and Zarya. This pathway will be needed on future spacewalks to transfer Nauka’s airlock and radiator.

Due to life support constraints, the spacewalk was ended before the crew could begin the Strela boom tasks. These items have been deferred to a future spacewalk.

The EVA ended at 21:55 UTC.

(Lead image: Outfitting Nauka on a previous EVA in April 2022. Credit: NASA/Roscosmos)

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