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The space station's outdated nickel-hydrogen batteries are being replaced with lithium-ion batteries, a lengthy process spanning years

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The space station’s outdated nickel-hydrogen batteries are being replaced with lithium-ion batteries, a lengthy process spanning years.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

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“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)

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SpaceX Plans To Send NASA Astronauts To Space in Q2 This Year

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff

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NASA
It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point. Pixabay

After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year.

This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme, the US space agency said in a statement on Sunday.

With this test now complete, the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“We’re highly confident that the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely at the end of February but no later than March. And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter,” said Musk after the successful uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule’s in-flight launch escape capabilities.

Musk said that if all goes well, the first crewed flight on the Crew Dragon could take place in the second quarter of this year.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 am just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Musk. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

NASA
After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year. Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. “The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley.

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“Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon,” he said in the NASA statement. (IANS)