Two NASA astronauts are currently on a spacewalk, working outside the International Space Station to install a new solar array as part of a long-term project to upgrade the station’s power systems. The spacewalk is being livestreamed, so you can watch live using the video below or catch up afterwards if you missed watching it live.
NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio are working to install a new solar array called an International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array or iROSA. They will be working over a period of around seven hours to install the array to a support structure which was installed on a previous spacewalk.
The aim of the upgrades is to boost the station’s power systems by supplementing its old solar arrays. The previous solar arrays, which are large panels in pairs which jut out from the station to collect energy from the sun, are up to 20 years old and hence past their 15-year service life. The old panels won’t be removed though, as they do still work to generate power — they are just not as efficient as they used to be.
The new arrays, which are smaller than the old arrays but still generate as much power due to improvements in the technology, will be placed on top of the old panels at an offset so that both old and new can work together. One the iROSAs are installed, they unfurl to their full 60-foot length and are ready for use to collect energy for the power system.
As well as installing an iROSA today, the spacewalkers will also be performing some other maintenance tasks like disconnecting a cable so that one of power channels can be reactivated. The channel had been shut down “due to a power trip in its electrical system,” NASA said in an update. “The disconnection of the cable will isolate the affected portion of the array and restore the channel to 75% of its normal operating capacity.”
If you’re watching the video of the spacewalk and wondering who is who, then you can tell the difference between the two astronauts as Cassada is wearing a spacesuit with red stripes and Rubio is wearing a plain white spacesuit.