Two NASA astronauts completed a 6-1/2-hour spacewalk on Thursday to replace a faulty antenna on the International Space Station, a mission NASA said was little more than orbital debris left over from a Russian missile test weeks ago. The risk was taken.
Astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron exited an airlock at the orbiting research laboratory about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth and began their work at 6:15 a.m. Eastern Time (1115 GMT), an hour earlier than scheduled.
“Extra-vehicle activity” (EVA) prompted by a separate orbital debris alert after a 48-hour delay — believed to be the first such postponement in more than two decades of the space station’s history — was issued by NASA. later deemed unimportant.
The origins of the newly discovered debris were left unclear by NASA. A spokesman said there was no indication that it came from fragments of a defunct satellite that Russia blew up with a missile test last month.
Thursday’s outing was the fifth spacewalk for Marshburn, 61, a medical doctor and former flight surgeon with two previous trips to orbit, and Barron, 34, a US Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer on their first spaceflight for NASA. was for the first time.
“It was awesome,” Baron later told Marshburn.
During the spacewalk, they removed a faulty S-band radio communications antenna assembly, now more than 20 years old, and placed a spare outside the space station.
NASA said the space station is equipped with other antennas that can perform similar functions, but installing a replacement system ensures an ideal level of communications redundancy.
Marshburn worked with Baron, while German astronaut Mathias Maurer of the European Space Agency maneuvered from inside with the help of NASA crewmate Raja Chari.
The four arrived at the space station on Nov. 11 in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, joined by two Russian astronauts and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who was already aboard the orbiting outpost.
Four days later, an anti-satellite missile test conducted by Russia without warning generated a debris field in low-Earth orbit, forcing seven of the ISS crew members to take shelter in their docked spacecraft. to allow a quick escape until the immediate danger had passed. NASA said.
The residual cloud of debris from the detonated satellite has since disintegrated, according to Dana Weigel, NASA’s deputy manager of the ISS program.
NASA has calculated that the remaining fragments continue to pose a “slightly elevated” background risk to the entire space station, and a 7% higher risk of puncturing a spacewalker suit than before Russia’s missile test, Weigel said Monday. told reporters.
NASA determined that risk levels fall within an acceptable range and proceeded with preparations for a spacewalk on Tuesday, as originally planned, only for mission control a few hours before the start of the EVA mission. Earlier.
The operation was suspended after NASA received warning notices of a newly discovered debris-collision hazard from US military space trackers. NASA later concluded there was no risk to the astronauts or the station, and rescheduled the replacement of the antenna on Thursday morning.
NASA spokesman Gary Jordan said Thursday’s exercise marked the 245th spacewalk in support of the space station’s assembly and maintenance, and the first time on record that was delayed because of a debris warning.
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