Saturday, December 28, 2013

External Cameras Cause Problems for Russian Spacewalkers

A pair of cameras which were scheduled to be fixed to the exterior of the International Space Station today, December 27, have caused problems for two Russian spacewalkers during installation.

The Urthecast cameras, which launched aboard the Progress 53 resupply ship, are designed to send live images of the Earth back to viewers on the ground. They were due to be installed on the exterior of the station's Zvezda Service Module.

A view from a window in Zvezda of today's spacewalk
credit: NASA

Expedition 38 spacewalkers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy began the EVA at 13:00 Irish Time to get to work on a spacewalk which was scheduled to last seven hours. The duo quickly got to work on getting all their tools in order before commencing the installation of one high resolution camera(HRC) and one medium resolution camera(MRC) on Zvezda.

Kotov and Ryazanskiy, having initially installed the HRC, were told that the telemetry received
from the camera itself by Russian Flight Control Teams in Korolyev, Russia appeared to be in good working order.

However, after installing the MRC a few hours later, the pair were told that telemetry and circuitry received by teams on the ground were not what they should have been, and the decision was then made to uninstall both cameras and return inside the space station in order to try and find a solution and work the problem.

During today's EVA, Kotov jettisoned a cable reel used to install the cameras opposite of the station's direction of travel for disposal.

The space walkers were then instructed to take detailed photographs of the electrical connectors mated earlier for additional review.

In addition to this, an experiment known as Vsplesk, installed in 2008 to measure seismic effects using high-energy particle streams in the near-Earth environment was also jettisoned.

Because of the camera problems, some tasks that were outlined for today's EVA could not be completed. As a result, the spacewalk lasted 8 hours and 7 minutes, which is now the longest Russian EVA ever to be completed.

Today's spacewalk was the third EVA to take place outside the space station this week. However, it was in no way related to the two spacewalks completed by NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio to replace a faulty coolant pump on the station's starboard truss.

It is unclear as to when the Urthecast cameras will eventually be installed on Zvezda.

More to follow..

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