NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore (Expedition 42 Commander) and Terry Virts (Expedition 42 Flight Engineer) recently completed their third spacewalk, scheduled to prepare the space station for commercial crew arrivals. The objective of these extravehicular activities (EVA) was to lay cables to ready the International Space Station (ISS) for two international docking adapters (IDAs) scheduled to arrive this year. NASA anticipates the first port to arrive in June and the second in December. The new docking ports will enable the expansion of the station crew to hold seven people and could potentially double the amount of time devoted to research.
During the first spacewalk on Februrary 21, Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts successfully installed and routed more than 300 feet of cable, which took 6 hours and 41 minutes to complete. These cables will provide power and communication capabilities for the new international docking adapters.
The second spacewalk on February 25, which lasted 6 hours and 43 minutes, proceeded as planned and managed to complete a get-ahead task by pre-staging wire-ties that will be used to secure about 400 feet of cable. However, a little problem was encountered with Virt’s spacesuit when a small amount of water seeped into his helmet during airlock re-pressurization. After some analysis, however, the International Space Station managers gave approval to proceed with the March 1st spacewalk, which took 5 hours and 38 minutes to complete.
The astronauts finished an hour earlier than the expected time, ending the walk at 12:30 pm EST. In the process, Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts have completed the routing of 400 feet worth of cable, as well as several antennas associated with the Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles system (C2V2), which will be used by Boeing’s Crew Transportation System and the Space Crew Dragon in the future for manned operations, such as carrying crew into space, as well as for meet-ups with the orbital laboratory.
Altogether, a total of 1,171 hours and 29 minutes have been dedicated to space station assembly and maintenance. Upon the completion of this Sunday’s spacewalk – the 187th in the space station’s history – astronaut Terry Virts stated, “mission accomplished” on his Twitter account, with a total of 3 spacewalks completed, 800 feet of cable rigged, 4 antennas and 3 laser reflectors installed and 1 robotic arm lubricated.