Featured Image: NASA astronaut Bob Behnken is pictured during a spacewalk to swap station batteries on June 26. / Source: NASA
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley launched to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on May 30th. They joined Astronaut Chris Cassidy at the ISS laboratory and are now conducting scientific experiments as members of Expedition 63. Before returning aboard the Crew Dragon, the astronauts are tasked with completing two spacewalks to upgrade the space station’s old battery system. The first spacewalk took place last Friday on June 25. The second spacewalk is scheduled for Wednesday, July 1st.
“Chris and I had a great event last Friday and a wonderful view of Dragon,” Behnken said during a media conference, “It was just awesome to be able to look back and snap a picture and I think we got a good daylight shot that kind of showed HTV and Dragon all out there on the front of the space station,” he added. “It was pretty awesome.”
“Not bad for a view while working,” Behnken later shared via Twitter, alongside a photograph they captured of SpaceX’s Dragon, pictured below.
During Friday’s spacewalk, they were tasked with switching the space station’s batteries. Astronaut Hurley helped Behnken and Cassidy suit-up and assisted them with the station’s robotic arm during the spacewalk (formally called extravehicular activity, or ‘EVA’ for short). The pair changed the old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries on a structure outside the ISS called 'Starboard-6'. These batteries are used to store solar energy from the station’s solar arrays. For around four years, since January 2017, astronauts have been changing the old nickel-hydrogen batteries, to lithium-ion because the storage power capacity is significantly better. Behnken and Cassidy’s spacewalk lasted 6-hours, they finished their tasked 2 hours earlier than expected. Astronaut Cassidy shared their experience, "In terms of getting ahead, every spacewalk you are one stuck bolt away from being two hours behind," he said. "All bolts worked ...Everything just lined up perfect."
Last week, @Astro_SEAL and @AstroBehnken stayed 2 hours ahead of their spacewalk timeline, working with speed and precision. Tomorrow, they'll float out to finish the work they started. Listen as Chris Cassidy explains how it happened on the first time the duo suited up together. pic.twitter.com/BqVWvZUfp7— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) June 30, 2020
Today, July 1st, the brave duo will conduct another spacewalk, Hurley will help them suit up again and set their spacesuits to battery power on at 7:35 a.m. EDT. “The remaining tasks for today are to install one more lithium-ion battery and one more adapter plate and remove the sixth nickel-hydrogen battery that will no longer be used,” the agency wrote in a press release. Astronauts Cassidy and Behnken are also tasked with removing a device called an “H-Fixture” to support future battery replacements, and loosening the bolts on the nickel-hydrogen batteries that will be replaced by other astronauts during two future spacewalks scheduled for later this year. The next spacewalk will complete the space station’s power system upgrade.
“Cassidy and Behnken also will route power and ethernet cables in preparation for the installation of a new external wireless communications system with an enhanced HD camera and to increase helmet camera coverage for future spacewalks,” the agency stated. NASA will live-stream the extravehicular activities via NASA TV starting at 6:00 a.m. EDT, the spacewalk is expected to last 6 to 7 hours. You can watch the astronauts work in zero gravity - video below!