Why is Thomas Pesquet going to make two spacewalks next week?



French astronaut Thomas Pesquet during his second spacewalk on March 24, 2017. – Handout / NASA / AFP

  • The International Space Station, in which Thomas Pesquet has been confined since April 23, will be equipped with solar panels.
  • And it is the French astronaut who sticks to them to install them, with the American Shane Kimbrough. The outings are scheduled for June 16 and 20 and should last 6.30 hours each.
  • The mission is important. These two panels will allow the ISS to benefit from 20 to 30% more energy and to have current until 2030.

Thomas Pesquet will be able to escape for a few moments from the 388 m3 of habitable volume of the International Space Station (ISS) in which he has been confined since April 23. Not once, but even twice. Because the ISS will benefit from two brand new solar panels. And it is the French astronaut, with the American Shane Kimbrough, who will install them.

Two outings of approximately 6.30 hours each

The duo will perform two spacewalks, Wednesday and Sunday, for this operation. “Each of them should last approximately 6.30 hours,” NASA said in a statement.

The mission is important. Orbiting the Earth at an altitude maintained between 330 and 420 km, the ISS depends largely on its eight solar panels to ensure its supply of electricity. With a total area of ​​2,500 m², they are currently capable of generating up to 160 kilowatts of power during orbital daytime, about half of which is stored in the station’s batteries for use when no longer exposed. under the sun.

Increase the solar power generation capacity of the ISS

These eight panels work well. “But they began to show signs of degradation, as expected since they were designed for a lifespan of fifteen years,” said NASA. Several have reached this age, or even largely exceeded, “the first pair of solar panels having been installed in December 2000”, details the American space agency.

The two new panels to be installed – supplied by Boeing and which have the particularity of being able to be transported rolled up, were transported to the ISS on June 5 by Space X’s Dragon freighter. Once deployed, they were taken to the ISS. are six meters wide and 19 meters long. Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough are tasked with installing them in front of six of the eight current solar panels. With a nice added value expected at the key since the electricity production capacity of the ISS should benefit from 20 to 30% of additional energy and go from a maximum production capacity of 160 kilowatts to 215. With these two new panels, the space station will also have the assurance of having energy until 2030.

Third and fourth outing in Espace for Pesquet

With this mission, Thomas Pesquet will experience his third and fourth spacewalks. He had carried out the first two during his first mission aboard the ISS, between November 2016 and June 2017, already with Shane Kimbrough, who already has six extra-vehicular outings on the clock.

These two new expeditions constitute fine lines for the already full CV of Thomas Pesquet, who will also take command of the ISS, towards the end of his mission. A first for a French astronaut.





Source link