CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Spacewalking astronauts ventured out Sunday to install support frames for new, high-efficiency solar panels arriving at the International Space Station later this year.
NASA's Kate Rubins and Victor Glover put the first set of mounting brackets and struts together, then bolted them into place next to the station's oldest and most degraded solar wings. But the work took longer than expected, and they barely got started on the second set before calling it quits.
Rubins will finish the job during a second spacewalk later this week.
The spacewalkers had to lug out the hundreds of pounds of mounting brackets and struts in 8-foot (2.5-meter) duffle-style bags. The equipment was so big and awkward that it had to be taken apart like furniture, just to get through the hatch.
Some of the attachment locations required extra turns of the power drill and still weren't snug enough, as indicated by black lines. The astronauts had to use a ratchet wrench to deal with the more stubborn bolts, which slowed them down. At one point, they were two hours behind.
“Whoever painted this black line painted outside the lines a little bit," Glover said at one particularly troublesome spot.
“We’ll work on our kindergarten skills over here,” Mission Control replied, urging him to move on.
With more people and experiments flying on the space station, more power will be needed to keep everything running, according to NASA. The six new solar panels — to be delivered in pairs by SpaceX over the coming year or so — should boost the station’s electrical capability by as much as 30%.