Friday April 19, 2019
Home Lead Story Astronauts In...

Astronauts Install New, Stronger Batteries for Station’s Solar Power Grid

The space station's outdated nickel-hydrogen batteries are being replaced with lithium-ion batteries, a lengthy process spanning years

0
//
astronauts, batteries
Astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch float outside the International Space Station, March 29, 2019, a week after the first spacewalk to install new and stronger batteries for the station’s solar power grid. VOA

Spacewalking astronauts hustled through battery hookups outside the International Space Station on Friday in a major upgrade of the solar power grid.

NASA’s Christina Koch and Nick Hague successfully installed a set of new and stronger batteries, continuing replacement work that began a week ago.

It wasn’t the team NASA envisioned. Koch was supposed to go out with astronaut Anne McClain for the first all-female spacewalk. But the lineup was changed because there weren’t two medium suits readily available for the women. After NASA took heat for the switch, McClain explained that the decision was based on her recommendation.

“Safety of the crew and execution of the mission come first,” McClain, an Army aviator, said via Twitter this week.

astronauts, station batteries
NASA’s Christina Koch and Nick Hague successfully installed a set of new and stronger batteries, continuing replacement work that began a week ago. Pixabay

Koch – the 14th woman to conduct a spacewalk – arrived at the space station two weeks ago along with Hague. McClain, who last week became the 13th female spacewalker, has been on board since December. More than 200 men have walked in space.

The space station’s outdated nickel-hydrogen batteries are being replaced with lithium-ion batteries, a lengthy process spanning years. These batteries store power collected by the solar wings and keep the outpost running when it’s on the night side of Earth. The big robot arm at the space station took care of the heavy lifting in advance, removing the old batteries and placing the new ones in the empty slots earlier this week.

Besides attaching three fresh batteries, Koch and Hague disconnected one of the three installed last week because of higher voltage than expected. It will be replaced by two old-style batteries until a spare arrives. Running ahead the whole time, the astronauts even squeezed in some extra chores before their 6 {-hour spacewalk ended.

“Everybody’s very impressed by how much we achieved today,” Mission Control radioed. “You guys rock.”

astronauts, station batteries
Running ahead the whole time, the astronauts even squeezed in some extra chores before their 6 {-hour spacewalk ended. VOA

McClain pulled out of Friday’s spacewalk when she realized that the medium suit she used last week fit her best; she was supposed to switch to a large. Koch also takes a medium. While another medium spacesuit top is available, it would have taken 12 hours to get it ready – time NASA did not want to spend given all the other station activity.

ALSO READ: Why Scientists Uncovering New Genomes for Quite a While?

“It’s safer & faster to change spacewalker assignments than reconfigure spacesuits,” NASA explained via Twitter. All first-time space fliers, McClain, Koch and Hague are members of NASA’s Astronaut Class of 2013, the first to include equal numbers of women and men.

A third spacewalk is planned for April 8; McClain will go out with Canadian David Saint-Jacques. The 250-mile-high station is also home to two Russians. (VOA)

Next Story

Koch to Set Record for Longest Spaceflight by Woman, Will Spend 328 Days in Space

"One month down. Ten to go," Koch wrote Wednesday on Twitter. "Privileged to contribute my best every single day of it"

0
astronaut, longest spaceflight, record
FILE - In this April 8, 2019, photo made available by NASA, astronaut and Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Christina Koch works on U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock of the International Space Station. VOA

A female astronaut is due to set a record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, the U.S. space agency said Wednesday, the same astronaut who was to have been in the first all-female spacewalk scrapped over lack of a right-sized spacesuit.

Astronaut Christina Koch, who completed the space walk with a man instead of a female colleague last month, will remain in orbit on board the International Space Station until February, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said.

Part of NASA’s study of the effects of long spaceflights on the human body, Koch will spend 328 days in space.

The 40-year-old astronaut has been in orbit since last month.

“One month down. Ten to go,” Koch wrote Wednesday on Twitter. “Privileged to contribute my best every single day of it.”

astronaut, longest flight
FILE – U.S. astronaut Christina Koch, member of the main crew of the expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), looks on prior the launch of Soyuz MS-12 space ship at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, March 14, 2019. VOA

In late March, NASA canceled what would have been the first all-female spacewalk with Koch and astronaut Anne McClain due to a lack of a spacesuit in the right size for McClain.

The walk was would have occurred during the final week of Women’s History Month.

On board the orbiting space station, astronauts work on a range of experiments in biology, biotechnology, health, earth, space and other sciences.

The typical stay for astronauts is six months, NASA said.

“NASA is looking to build on what we have learned with additional astronauts in space for more than 250 days,” Jennifer Fogarty, a chief scientist for NASA’s Human Research Program, said in a statement.

longest spacecraft, women
Part of NASA’s study of the effects of long spaceflights on the human body, Koch will spend 328 days in space. Pixabay

Record holders

Astronaut Peggy Whitson holds the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, staying in orbit 288 days in 2016 and 2017, NASA said.

“It’s my honor to follow in Peggy’s footsteps,” Koch said in a video from the International Space Station, orbiting over 200 miles (322 km) above Earth.

ALSO READ: SpaceX Launches Second Supersized ‘Falcon’ Heavy Rocket, For the First Time Lands all Three Boosters

Of the more than 500 people who have traveled to space, fewer than 11 percent have been women. But Koch graduated from NASA’s 2013 class of astronauts that was 50 percent women.

The overall NASA record of 340 days, set in 2016, is held by astronaut Scott Kelly in an experiment to compare his physical and mental health to his identical twin Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth. (VOA)