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U. S., Japanese Spacewalkers Revive Space Station Power System



NASA astronaut Sunita Williams begins record setting spacewalk. Image Credit/NASA TV


U. S.and Japanese astronauts overcame problems with a jammed bolt on Wednesday as they succeeded in the installation of a crucial electrical switching unit outside the International Space Station with a spacewalk.

During the 6 1/2 hour spacewalk, NASA’s Sunita Williams and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide secured a new Main Bus Switching Unit to the station, one of four similar devices that circulate power generated by eight outstretched solar panels to components inside and outside the six person orbital outpost, including those responsible for life support and scientific research.

The bolt jammed August 30 as the same astronauts attempted to replace a failing MBSU during a spacewalk exceeding eight hours.

Engineers from NASA’s Mission Control and space station programs huddled over the Labor Day holiday weekend to devise a troubleshooting plan that included an imaginative tool kit.

Among the improvised tools was a toothbrush borrowed from one of the station’s six astronauts.

The plan worked. Hoshide freed the jammed bolt. He and Williams then finished the installation, using the toothbrush and other tools to whisk away metal debris inside the bolt receptacle believed responsible for the jam. Then, they secured the MBSU with two bolts.

“Today’s (spacewalk) went as well as you could hope,” Mike Suffredini, NASA’s ISS program manager, told a post spacewalk news briefing “So, we are in good shape.”

The difficulties temporarily prevented solar power generated by two of the solar arrays from entering the station’s power grid.

That power should be recovered within two day. However, engineers are evaluating another power system issue, seemingly unrelated, that surfaced between the two spacewalks.

Wednesday’s spacewalk also produced a record for Williams, a U. S. Navy helicopter pilot who is serving her second tour of duty aboard the station.

It was her sixth career spacewalk. She’s accumulated a career 44 hours, 02 minutes in a space suit, the most time by any woman astronaut.

“It’s just a matter of circumstance, time and place.” said Williams when notified by Mission Control of the accomplishment. “Anyone could be in these boots.”





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