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Astronauts install new solar array on 6.5-hour spacewalk

By
Paul Brinkmann and Allen Cone

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Two astronauts successfully installed a 60-foot new solar panel during a spacewalk on the far end of the left side of International Space Station on Sunday.

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency participated in a spacewalk that ended at 2:10 p.m. EDT and lasted 6 hours and 28 minutes, according to NASA. At 7:42 a.m. EDT, they set their spacesuits to battery power.

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It was the eighth spacewalk this year outside the ISS. Kimbrough has participated in eight spacewalks and Pesquet was in four. Kimbrough has spent a total of 52 hours and 43 minutes spacewalking, and Pesquet's total spacewalking time is 26 hours and 15 minutes.

In all, there have been 240 spacewalks for a total of 63 days and 56 minutes, including assembly and assembly of of the ISS.

NASA is replacing six of the eight existing solar arrays. The original panels were designed to last 15 years. They've been used for 20 years and are degrading, the space agency said though announcers said Wednesday there's no urgency to install the new panels immediately.

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During the deployment Sunday, they bolted it in place and connected cables to the station's power supply. They also removed and stowed hardware for releasing the second system, known as iROSA, for International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array.

A second panel deployment is scheduled for Friday.

The two had begun work to unroll the array during a spacewalk on Wednesday.

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But six hours in, NASA Mission Control in Houston decided to scrap the plan to deploy the array and have the two return to the ISS.

A NASA announcer said during the live broadcast on Wednesday that Kimbrough and Pesquet "have encountered some interference with a piece of equipment on a mounting bracket."

The pair of spacewalkers also fell behind schedule three hours into the job when NASA detected brief data gaps coming from Kimbrough's spacesuit. He was ordered back to an airlock to reboot the data system. NASA said he was never in danger, but the reboot cost one hour of the spacewalk duration.

The solar arrays arrived at the space station on June 5 in a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule, the 22nd such mission for the company.

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20 years aboard the International Space Station

The International Space Station is photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking on October 4, 2018. NASA astronauts Andrew Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev executed a fly-around of the orbiting laboratory to take pictures of the space station before returning home after spending 197 days in space. Photo courtesy of NASA/Roscosmos

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