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Astronauts prepare for 2 upcoming spacewalks


HOUSTON, Texas — Astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover Jr. are preparing for two upcoming spacewalks that will help to upgrade and maintain the International Space Station. The NASA astronauts will conduct spacewalks on Wednesday, January 27, and Monday, February 1.

It will be the first spacewalk experience for Glover, who is a few months into his first spaceflight on the station.

This will be the third spacewalk for Hopkins, who previously completed two spacewalks during his first six-month venture to the space station from September 25, 2013, to March 10, 2014.

Hopkins, Glover, NASA astronaut Shannon Walker and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi flew to the station in November aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft. They joined NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who were already on the station after launching in October.

Both spacewalks will be broadcast live on the NASA website, with coverage beginning each day at 5:30 a.m. ET. The spacewalks are scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. ET and are expected to last for six and a half hours. They will be the 233rd and 234th spacewalks in support of the space station.

For both spacewalks, Hopkins will wear the spacesuit bearing red stripes as crew member 1 and Hopkins will wear the spacesuit with no stripes as crew member 2.

The astronauts will focus on completing the installation of Bartolomeo, the newest payload hosting station outside the European Space Agency’s Columbus module, on January 27. They will complete antenna and cable rigging to hook up power and data connections.

The Bartolomeo platform, named after the younger brother of Christopher Columbus, is the first instance of a European commercial partnership that offers a place to conduct science and technology demonstrations outside of the space station, according to the European Space Agency.

The Columbus module will also be upgraded with a terminal that provides an independent high-bandwidth communication link for European ground stations.

The astronauts will install the final lithium-ion battery adapter plate on February 1. This installation wraps up work to complete the replacement of aging batteries outside the station that began in January 2017.

During both spacewalks, Rubins will operate the robotic arm from inside the space station to assist the astronauts as they work outside.

They will focus on other upgrades, like replacing an external standard camera with a new high-definition camera on the Destiny laboratory, and will replace camera and light assembly components needed for the Japanese robotic arm’s camera system, located outside of the Kibo module.

“We’ve been talking about these two EVAs (extra-vehicular activities) for the better part of a year, so we’re excited to see them executed,” said Kenny Todd, deputy manager for the International Space Station Program at NASA during a press conference Friday.

There are more spacewalks planned for the crew near the end of February and beginning of March.

Glover and Rubins will pair up for the third spacewalk to prepare the station’s power system for installing new solar arrays, which will increase the station’s power supply.

During these long spacewalks, the astronauts go through alternating cycles of day and night every 45 minutes, operating against the hot, bright light of the sun as well as the cold darkness of space. This happens because the space station is orbiting the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour.

While the astronauts don’t feel the direct impacts of extreme cold and heat, there is the potential for a chill, so there are heaters installed in the astronauts’ gloves to keep their hands warm, said Vincent Lacourt, spacewalk flight director at NASA for the February 1 spacewalk.

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