Space Station Crew Preparing for Spacewalks As SpaceX Cargo Dragon Launch Nears

Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin conduct a six-hour and 25-minute spacewalk on November 17, 2022, in their Orlan spacesuits to transfer a radiator from the Rassvet module to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module for future installation. The duo is pictured tethered to the Rassvet module with the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship docked at top. Credit: NASA

On the International Space Station on Monday, November 21, the Expedition 68 crew continued gearing up for more spacewalks before the end of the year. In the meantime, a U.S. cargo craft is counting down to its launch this week to resupply the seven-member crew currently living aboard the orbiting lab.

Two astronauts and two cosmonauts are preparing for five spacewalks to be conducted outside the space station in less than two months. One set of spacewalks is comprised of tasks needed to augment the station’s power generation system. In the other set of spacewalks, crew members will be deploying a radiator and installing an airlock on the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.

During a spacewalk on November 15, NASA Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio prepared the station for new roll-out solar arrays by assembling a mounting bracket on the station’s starboard truss structure. On November 29, a pair of spacewalkers (soon to be named by mission managers) will install the roll-out solar arrays on the new mounting bracket. On Monday, Flight Engineers Nicole Mann and Koichi Wakata reviewed the robotics procedures necessary to support the successful installation of the solar arrays

SpaceX Cargo Dragon Spacecraft Docked ISS

A SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft docked to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Among the items packed inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are the roll-out solar arrays. Dragon is scheduled to lift off atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket at 3:54 p.m. EST (12:54 p.m. PST) on Tuesday and arrive at the station for an automated docking at 5:57 a.m. on Wednesday. Dragon is also delivering new space agriculture and biotechnology studies, as well as food, fuel, and crew supplies. NASA TV, on the agency’s app and website, begins its launch coverage at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and docking coverage at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

After Dragon is docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing, or zenith port, robotics controllers on the ground will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach and remove the roll-out solar arrays from Dragon’s unpressurized trunk. Then the controllers will remotely guide the Canadarm2 to stage the roll-out solar arrays on truss structure attachment points. From there the spacewalkers will access the solar arrays to begin the upcoming installation work.

Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin, both from Roscosmos, spent Monday setting up the Poisk airlock, organizing tools, and studying procedures for their second spacewalk together. It is planned to begin at 6:15 a.m. on Friday, November 25. The duo, with assistance from European robotic arm operator Anna Kikina, will relocate a radiator from the Rassvet module to the Nauka science module. The Roscosmos spacewalkers prepared the radiator for its relocation during a spacewalk on November 17.