NASA and Roscosmos astronauts have both conducted spacewalks this week aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The spacewalks prepared the Station for additional iROSA panel installation activity later this summer, added a long-awaited airlock to the Nauka science module, and made history with the first citizen of an Arab country to conduct an EVA.
US EVA-86, with NASA astronaut Steve Bowen as EV1 and Emirati astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi as EV2, began at 13:11 UTC on Friday, April 28. At that moment, their spacesuits went on battery power, marking the official start of Bowen’s eighth spacewalk and AlNeyadi’s first.
Sultan AlNeyadi, born in Umm Ghafa, United Arab Emirates, became the first Emirati to perform a long-duration spaceflight when he flew to the ISS on the NASA/SpaceX Crew-6 mission with astronauts Steve Bowen, Woody Hoburg, and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.
When his spacesuit went on battery power, AlNeyadi also became the first Emirati, the first Arab, and the first citizen of a Middle Eastern country to conduct an EVA outside of a spacecraft. As AlNeyadi stated to CAPCOM Anne McClain at the end of the EVA, “It might be a first in the Arab world, but it won’t be the last.”
Steve Bowen, 59, from Cohasset, Massachusetts, had conducted seven EVAs before EVA-86. His first EVA occurred in November 2008, as a mission specialist aboard STS-126 flown by the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
After participating in three EVAs on that mission, Bowen conducted two EVAs aboard STS-132, flown by the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and two EVAs aboard the Shuttle Discovery on STS-133. Bowen was later assigned to STS-133 after Tim Kopra was injured in a bicycle accident.
EVA-86 had two major objectives. The first objective was to reroute cables so that a future iROSA solar array can be installed on the S6 truss of the ISS. A pair of arrays is set to be launched on the CRS-28 Cargo Dragon spacecraft and installed on the S4 and S6 starboard truss segments later this summer.
The second objective was to unlatch and remove a SASA unit with an S-band antenna. This unit, mounted on the ESP-2 stowage platform, is scheduled to be returned to Earth for refurbishment. The antenna failed in Sept. 2021 and was replaced on the P1 truss segment on Dec. 2 of that year on US EVA-78.
The first objective was accomplished as Bowen and AlNeyadi successfully routed cable bundles on the channel 1B iROSA modification kit. This was done at their worksite at the S6 truss, and after they were done they installed a foot restraint to be used on a future EVA at that site. The duo also worked on the mod kit insulation before moving on.
The pair started on the second objective at the ESP-2 platform, but they ran into some difficulties. The task started well enough with the eight structural bolts being removed. However, the ninth jacking bolt would not release despite Bowen’s best efforts.
The bolt broke when the PGT power tool was used at its highest setting, and even a last-ditch effort by AlNeyadi using the EVA hammer failed to loosen the unit. Bowen reattached the eight structural bolts on the SASA and the duo finished their EVA seven hours and one minute after exiting the ISS.
After the depressurization of the Quest airlock started at 20:12 UTC, the 261st spacewalk in support of the Station, and the second EVA of Expedition 69, was in the books. Attention now turned to the upcoming 262nd EVA in support of the ISS on Wednesday, May 3.
US EVA-86 was the fourth EVA at the Station in 2023, and Russian EVA-57 would become the fifth. Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin of Roscosmos were tasked with releasing an experiment airlock from the Rassvet module on the Russian segment of the ISS. They and cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev would move the airlock to the Nauka module and install it.
EVA-57 was one in a series of spacewalks that would fully outfit the Nauka science module, which was installed to the ISS in 2021. Nauka’s heat-dispersing radiator panel and small airlock for experiments were actually launched aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2010, aboard STS-132.
STS-132, with Steve Bowen as one of the mission specialists, had brought up the Rassvet docking and stowage module to the Station. Rassvet had the Nauka radiator and airlock fastened to its outer hull, and these items waited for over a decade to be installed on the long-delayed Nauka module. The radiator was installed back on April 19 during Russian EVA-56.
Cosmonauts Prokopyev, wearing the red stripes on his Orlan spacesuit as EV1, and Petelin, wearing the blue stripes as EV2, exited the Poisk airlock at 20:00 UTC on May 3. The duo released launch locks on the experiment airlock, removed an orange insulation cover, and disconnected the airlock from Rassvet.
Cosmonaut Fedyaev used the European Robotic Arm (ERA) to grapple the airlock and move it from Rassvet to Nauka. Prokopyev and Petelin assisted in the procedure and also helped Fedyaev get the airlock aligned with Nauka’s front nadir docking port.
The experiment airlock was successfully installed, and the cosmonauts connected the airlock to Nauka via six electrical connectors on either side. Prokopyev and Petelin also performed some get-ahead tasks for Russian EVA-58 and its work to deploy the radiator and jettisoned some trash from the Poisk module. This trash also included items removed from the Nauka experiment airlock before its relocation.
After the jettisoning, the cosmonauts returned to the Poisk module. Russian EVA-57 ended at 03:11 UTC on May 4, after seven hours and 11 minutes. The third EVA of Expedition 69 was in the books.
With the two EVAs complete, the Station crew turned its attention to the relocation of Crew Dragon Endeavour from the Harmony node’s zenith (upward-facing) PMA-3 port to the forward port at PMA-2. The relocation occurred Saturday, May 6 at 12:15 UTC.
Crew-6 commander Bowen, pilot Woody Hoburg, and mission specialists AlNeyadi and Fedyaev boarded the spacecraft during the relocation, and could have returned to Earth had an emergency situation develop during the relocation that caused Endeavour to no longer be able to redock with the Station.
However, all went to plan.
This procedure was necessary to make room for a Cargo Dragon that will dock with the Station next month. CRS-28 will deliver the last two iROSA panels to the Station as well as other cargo and experiments. Initially, the privately crewed Axiom-2 mission was scheduled to fly on May 8, but the delayed launch of the ViaSat-3 Americas mission on Falcon Heavy and the need for CRS-28 to fly have delayed Axiom-2 for an unknown period of time.
Russian EVA-58 then took place on Friday, May 12. This was the 11th and final planned spacewalk on the Russian segment to commission the Nauka module and the ERA. The radiator panel was deployed and connected with ammonia and nitrogen jumpers.
Furthermore, cosmonauts Prokopyev and Petelin deployed six cubesats during the EVA, transfered experiment platforms to Nauka, installed an MMOD panel and sealant on the Zvezda module’s leaking transfer compartment, removed outdated hardware, cleaned windows, and repositioned a plume measurement unit.
While the US segment is being prepared for the finishing touches on its power upgrade, and the Russian segment’s Nauka module is nearing full commissioning, additional work will be done to the Station as the partners, including Russia, have agreed to extend their operations on the ISS until at least 2028.
As part of the preparation for future operations, three new Russian Orlan spacesuits have been ordered by Roscosmos to replace the current suits, which are nearing the end of their warranty (20 EVAs). One suit is to be delivered in 2024 and two others in 2025. The US segment’s Shuttle-era EMU suits will also be replaced by new suits from Collins Aerospace in due course.
(Lead image: astronauts Bowen and AlNeyadi on the Station’s starboard truss during EVA-86. Credit: NASA)