Astronauts unfurl 60-foot-long space station solar array

A new solar array unrolls outside the International Space Station on Friday during an astronaut spacewalk. Photo courtesy of NASA

ORLANDO, Fla., June 26 (UPI) — Two astronauts concluded a spacewalk Friday outside the International Space Station and installed a second of six new solar arrays that will boost the orbiting laboratory’s electrical power supply.

Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet exited the space station about 8 a.m. EDT. They successfully mounted and rolled out a 60-foot-long solar array, known as iROSA or International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array. The spacewalk concluded after 6 hours, 45 minutes.

“It is looking great and we are getting good power from the solar array so we have a lot of happy faces down here. Well done, both of you!” spacewalk communicator and Canadian astronaut Jenni Sidey said while monitoring the event from Houston during the spacewalk.

Kimbrough is a NASA astronaut who on Friday completed his ninth career spacewalk, while Pesquet, a French astronaut with the European Space Agency, completed his fifth.

During part of the installation, Pesquet was strapped onto the end of a robotic crane, the Canadarm2, while NASA astronaut Megan MacArthur controlled the arm from inside the space station.

“Pesquet is being backed away from that location now, and he will get out of the foot restraint, and then join Kimbrough back … at the worksite to begin the process of mounting the array to the mounting bracket,” a NASA announcer said midway through the spacewalk.

The installation of such massive equipment, even in microgravity, requires using the Canadarm2 to anchor astronauts as they work.

The solar arrays arrived at the space station June 5 in a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule, the 22nd such mission for the company.

The new iROSA solar arrays will augment massive existing arrays on the station.

NASA designed the existing solar arrays to last for 15 years. They’ve now been used for 20 years and are degrading, the space agency said.


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