Astronauts will install a giant solar panel outside the International Space Station

(CNN) – It is the summer of new solar energy on the International Space Station.

Astronauts Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency will conduct their third spacewalk in just over a week to install a second new solar panel outside the space station on Friday.

The astronauts are scheduled to begin their walk at 8 a.m. ET, and it is expected to last about six and a half hours. Coverage will begin on the television channel and the website of the POT starting at 6:30 am ET.

Pesquet wears red stripes on his spacesuit as a member of Extravehicular Crew 1, and Kimbrough wears the suit without stripes as a member of Extravehicular Crew 2.

During the spacewalk, Pesquet will be attached to the end of the robotic Canadarm2, which he will use to grasp the solar array. Inside the space station, astronaut Megan McArthur will maneuver the robotic arm and Pesquet to the location where the array will be installed.

It’s Pesquet’s fifth spacewalk and Kimbrough’s ninth overall, and their fifth together as a team. And this is the 241st spacewalk to support the assembly, maintenance and improvement of the space station.

Pesquet is shown attached to an articulated portable footrest at the end of the Canadarm2 robotic arm during a spacewalk on June 16.

The duo tried to install the first solar panel last Wednesday and ran into technical problems before finishing the job. But on Sunday? They successfully installed the first deployable solar array, called iROSA, bolted it into place, and connected the cables to the station’s power supply.

The solar panels arrived at the space station on June 5 after the launch of the 22nd SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply mission. The matrices were rolled up like a carpet and are 340 kilos and 3 meters wide.

Once the astronauts have unfolded and screwed the array into place, it will be about 19 meters long and 20 feet wide. This deployment process takes about six minutes.

Watch astronauts install a giant solar panel outside the space station

Astronauts installed a new ISS deployment solar array on June 20.

While the original solar panels on the space station are still working, they have been supplying power there for more than 20 years and show some signs of wear after prolonged exposure to the space environment. The matrices were originally designed to last 15 years.

Erosion can be caused by thruster plumes, which come from both the station’s thrusters and the crew and cargo vehicles coming and going from the station, said Dana Weigel, deputy director of the International Space Station Program. .

‘The other factor that affects our solar panels is micrometeorite debris. The arrays are made up of many small energy chains, and over time those energy chains can degrade if hit by debris, “he said.

Watch astronauts install a giant solar panel outside the space station

Kimbrough and Pesquet are shown working with one of the rolled dies.

The new solar panels are being placed in front of the original ones.

This will increase the total available power of the space station from 160 kilowatts to 215 kilowatts. It’s also a good test for the new solar panels, because this same design will power parts of the Gateway lunar outpost, helping humans return to the moon through NASA’s Artemis program in 2024.

“The exposed part of the old panels will continue to generate power in parallel with the new arrays, but those new arrays have solar cells that are more efficient than our original cells,” Weigel said. “They have a higher energy density and, in combination, they can generate more energy than our original matrix did when it was new.”

The new arrangements will have a similar expected useful life of 15 years. However, since the degradation in the original matrices was expected to be worse, the team will monitor the new matrices to test their true longevity, because they can last longer.

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