Begun today at 7:10 AM EST, two astronauts are currently working on the International Space Station for the second of three spacewalks to take place. For those of us still down on Earth, NASA will be showing the spacewalk live online. You can view the live feed here.
The total time of the spacewalk will be approximately six and a half hours, starring astronauts Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts. The two of them will be continuing work from a previous spacewalk, which was completed last Saturday. It is the third walk for Wilmore, who is the commander of Expedition 42, and the second for Virts, who acts as a flight engineer for the International Space Station.
Outside, the two men are preparing the station to accommodate private space taxis from both Boeing and SpaceX. The station will be set up for an expected SpaceX Dragon capsule to bring in two new, commercial docking stations later this year. These will allow the two companies to bring in astronauts at an increased rate, which will in turn allow for a larger crew about the ISS.
“We are really trying to take the station into this next phase in support of the commercial industries and providers. … It all kind of gets started here in the next couple of weeks with the EVAs.” said Kenneth Todd, operations manager for ISS at a news conference last Wednesday.
Current cargo spacecraft attach to the ISS through a method called berthing, which requires the station’s robotic arm to hold down and maneuver the spacecraft towards the berthing bay. The process of un-berthing is just as complicated, and takes many hours of cable detachment and monitoring before the robotic arm can move the craft away from the station.
In contrast, the new docking stations will be relatively seamless. The vehicle will dock itself to a capture ring that will ensure security. Should there ever be an emergency, those aboard the ISS can use the commercial vehicles as a quick get-away.
If you miss this live feed, the next spacewalk will be performed on Sunday, March 1st.
Barry Wilmore uses the visor of a fellow astronaut as a mirror to take this outer space snapshot on a previous mission.