After donning their bulky white spacesuits, flight engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev opened the hatch on the Pirs docking port at 10:10 a.m. (1410 GMT) and floated outside a few minutes later. The two Russian cosmonauts ventured out into the vacuum of space for a spacewalk on Thursday, tasked with carrying out important work including the installation of an antenna outside of the International Space Station (ISS) Russian segment.
Now the cosmonauts are safely back inside the International Space Station on June 19 after spending more than 7 hours outside for maintenance and equipment upgrades on the orbiting laboratory. The duo were wearing Russian Orlan spacesuits and worked outside the Russian segment of the International Space Station.
They worked for six hours and 23 minutes performing a variety of tasks for both science and maintenance. Outside the Zvezda service module the spacewalkers installed laser communications equipment. The laser based system will test the transmission of up to 100 megabytes per second of Russian science data to the ground. Also, an antenna with signs of degraded performance was photographed to assist engineers on the ground searching for a solution to the problem.
“Oh, that’s beautiful,” one of the cosmonauts said as he took his first glimpse over South America from more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the planet. It was the first spacewalk for both Skvortsov and Artemyev. The pair is scheduled to perform another one in August.
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 cosmonauts spent much of the first part of their spacewalk tackling the most complicated task i.e. mounting a new communications antenna on Russia’s Zvezda service module. The crewmembers took brief periods of rest when they started breathing too heavily.
Though working without gravity may look effortless, spacewalking is tough labor. That difficulty was apparent near the end of the spacewalk when the cosmonauts became frustrated as they struggled to remove stubborn bolts from a piece of hardware that they were supposed to toss off into space.
“You don’t expect the little things to be so inconvenient,” one of the cosmonauts said. “It is quite upsetting.”
The pair finally freed the equipment and jettisoned it away from the station. The truss-like hardware had been holding the MPAC and SEED experiments which test how various materials handle exposure to the space environment. During the spacewalk the cosmonauts moved the experiments to a new payload beam.
The spacewalk, originally scheduled to last 6 and 1/2 hours, ended up taking 7 hours and 23 minutes. The spacewalk was the 180th in support of the station’s assembly and maintenance. The $100 billion orbiting lab has continuously housed rotating crews of astronauts since 2000. Traveling at a speed of 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) per hour, the space station orbits Earth about once every 90 minutes.