Two Russian cosmonauts wrapped up a 5-hour, 58-minute spacewalk at 1:32 p.m. EDT Thursday, completing the replacement of a laser communications experiment with a new platform for a small optical camera system, the installation of new spacewalk aids and an inspection of antenna covers.
Clad in Orlan spacesuits, Expedition 36 Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin began their second spacewalk within the span of a week when they opened the hatch to the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment at 7:34 a.m.
As the two spacewalkers moved out to the first worksite on the Zvezda service module, they carried a combination EVA workstation and biaxial pointing platform upon which a small optical camera system will be installed during a future spacewalk. After attaching the assembly to a temporary stowage location, Yurchikhin and Misurkin removed the External Onboard Laser Communications System, which was installed on Zvezda in August 2011 during an Expedition 28 spacewalk.
With the laser communications experiment removed and temporarily stowed with its protective cover, the two spacewalkers began to install the camera platform before noticing that its base plate was not properly aligned. Initially, Russian mission controllers told the spacewalkers to stand down on the installation, and Yurchikhin carried the platform back into the Pirs airlock. However, after determining that the alignment issue with base plate of the EVA workstation and biaxial pointing platform could be corrected after its installation, Russian flight controllers directed the spacewalkers to retrieve the platform from the airlock and install it at as planned on the starboard side of Zvezda. Two cameras, scheduled to be delivered to station aboard a Progress cargo craft in November, will be mounted on the platform during a spacewalk planned for December.
Misurkin and Yurchikhin then headed to various locations on Zvezda to inspect six antennas that are used to assist in providing navigation data during the rendezvous and docking of European Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo ships. The inspection involved work to check out the antenna covers and tighten screws on any loose covers. Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy observed one of the covers floating away from the station on Monday, and Russian station officials wanted to determine its origin and insure that the remaining covers are secure.
While Yurchikhin completed the installation of some gap spanners – devices used to assist future spacewalkers in their movement from one module to another — on the port side of Zvezda, Misurkin then headed over to the Poisk Mini-Research Module-2 where he used a test kit to collect a particulate sample from under a swath of thermal insulation near Poisk’s hatch. He also photographed a materials exposure experiment and associated cabling along Poisk.
Due to time constraints, the relocation of a foot restraint from the hull of Zvezda to the new spacewalk workstation was deferred to a later excursion.
This was the 173rd spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the 8th in Yurchikhin’s career and the third for Misurkin.
For the duration of Thursday’s spacewalk, Cassidy and station Commander Pavel Vinogradov were isolated to the Poisk module and their Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft, while Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg of NASA and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency were free to move about the U.S. segment of the complex.
Nyberg spent much of her day working with the InSpace-3 experiment, which examines colloidal fluids classified as smart materials, transitioning to a solid-like state in the presence of a magnetic field. The InSPACE-3 team believes the knowledge gleaned from this investigation may contribute to new technologies and new manufacturing processes based on the idea of having these nanoparticles act as self-assembling building blocks for larger structures.
Parmitano meanwhile rerouted an exhaust port on the Amine Swingbed. This technology demonstration is testing a smaller, more efficient carbon dioxide removal system. Size and efficiency are key factors as NASA begins building the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle that will take astronauts deeper into space than ever before.