Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Alexander Misurkin inadvertently set a new spacewalk record, with a 6.5 hours spacewalk stretching into 8 hours 13 minutes.
An error, however, led to a record-breaking spacewalk because a new antenna was pointing in the wrong direction and had to be fixed.
“The two cosmonauts opened the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment to begin the spacewalk at 10:34 a.m. EST,” NASA’s blog post stated. "They re-entered the airlock and closed the hatch at 6:47 p.m. EST."
Cosmonauts Successfully Replace Antenna But Point It In The Wrong Direction
The astronauts had the task of replacing the electronics box fixed to a high-gain antenna, which helps the Russian mission controller communicate, with a high-frequency wideband receiver. The replacement will enable the data transmission and ISS telemetry belonging to the Russian segment to have a similar performance as the U.S. space agency’s communications.
The antenna was folded during the time the astronauts were working on upgrading the electronics. The error took place when they worked on the redeployment of the antenna. After seven hours into the spacewalk, the two cosmonauts realized that the antenna on the box was not extending following its folding up for the upgrade.
The duo spent quite some time just pushing the antenna while the flight controllers were trying to rotate the antenna into the right position repeatedly. After the efforts got the antenna moving, mission control confirmed that the antenna was pointing in the wrong direction by about 180 degrees.
In spite of pointing in the incorrect direction, the antenna is in good shape and is operating, according to Rob Navias, a commentator on NASA TV. Russian space agency, Roscosmos, will be looking into the issue to check if anything else needs to be done.
207th Spacewalk For The International Space Station
The spacewalk, which became the fifth-longest in the history of human spaceflight, is the 207th in support of the ISS. It is the fourth spacewalk for Misurkin and second for Shkaplerov.
The old box, which is about a small suitcase’s size, contained the electronics from the 1990s when the space station was launched. It is not compatible with the new satellite technology and hence, had to be upgraded via a spacewalk.
It was somewhat difficult for the cosmonauts to remove the old electronics because the device was not meant to be replaced or serviced in orbit. The bulky space gloves put on by astronauts during a spacewalk also makes such tasks cumbersome.