Atlantis Astronauts Fix Shuttle Blanket, Furl Solar Array
STS-117 spacewalkers Danny Olivas (right) and Jim Reilly (at left on robotic arm) watch over the final retraction of the remaining Port 6 solar array during a June 15, 2007 spacewalk.
CREDIT: NASA TV.
This story was updated at 1:29 a.m. EDT.
HOUSTON -- Two spacewalkers performed a bit of heat shield surgery and wrestled an old solar wing into submission outside the International Space Station (ISS) Friday, as critical Russian computers were reactivated inside the orbital laboratory.
STS-117 mission specialists Jim Reilly and Danny Olivas spent nearly eight hours outside the station, using medical staples to fix a torn heat shield blanket on the space shuttle Atlantis and tape-wrapped tools to help furl a solar array atop the ISS.
“It’s nice to see those blanket boxes flat,” Olivas said, referring to the storage boxes for the solar array panels, known as blankets.
While the astronauts worked outside, ISS Expedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov worked with flight controllers to restore four of six command and navigation computers - two a piece - aboard the station’s Russian segment. Engineers have been working to recover the computers since they failed earlier this week.
The Russian cosmonauts disconnected some of the system’s connectors from a suspect switch, wrapped them in tape and rerouted them, NASA said. Because of the fix, Reilly did not have to disconnect an unused power cable connector on the station’s new Starboard 3/Starboard 4 truss segments as a troubleshooting measure, they added.
“Well good news,” Russian Mission Control radioed the ISS crew. “It’s good news that’s its working.”
Originally slated to last 6.5 hours, the spacewalk began at 1:24 pm. EDT (1724 GMT) from the station’s Quest airlock and ran and extra-long seven hours and 58 minutes to complete the tasks. It marked the third of four planned during the STS-117 mission to deliver a new crewmember, trusses and starboard solar arrays to the ISS.
Shuttle blanket surgery
Wielding a pack of medical staplers pilfered from medical kits aboard Atlantis and the ISS, Olivas secured a triangular flap of a protective blanket mounted to the shuttle’s left Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) pod in an apparently smooth repair.
The 4-inch by 6-inch (10-centimeter by 15-centimeter) blanket corner tore loose from its mooring during Atlantis’ June 8 launch. While the tear posed no risk to the shuttle’s crew or their return to Earth, mission managers were concerned the OMS pod’s underlying graphite-epoxy structure could be damaged during reentry and require a lengthy repair.
Olivas used his spacesuit-clad hands to pat down the upturned blanket, then stapled its sides to adjacent material using two rows of surgical staples. He then drove 21 pins through the blanket and into nearby heat-resistant tiles to anchor the blanket corner and a nearby swatch.
“You made that feel really easy,” Olivas told Mission Control after the fix. “Hope it’s going to be good enough.”
While Olivas repaired the blanket, Reilly replaced a water vent valve on the exterior of the station’s Destiny laboratory with a hydrogen vent valve, which will allow the activation of a U.S.-built oxygen generator later this year.
Solar array furled at last
Reilly and Olivas also helped furl the station’s only remaining solar array extending from its mast-like Port 6 (P6) truss after three days of effort by Atlantis’ STS-117 crew.
Retraction efforts began in earnest during a Wednesday spacewalk and then continued with Atlantis’ STS-117 mission commander Rick Sturckow overseeing efforts to remotely furl the solar wing a day later.
Stowing the array cleared the station’s new starboard solar wings to rotate and track the Sun. It also primed the P6 truss, which was temporarily installed atop the ISS in 2000, for relocation to the port-most side of the station on a later shuttle flight.
The truss’ port-reaching solar array was furled during a December 2006 shuttle mission, the lessons from which eased the STS-117’s efforts, mission managers said.
Friday’s spacewalk marked the fifth orbital excursion for Reilly for a total of about 30 hours and 43 minutes. It was the second spacewalk for Olivas, bringing him up to 14 hours and 13 minutes.
The spacewalk also marked the 86th dedicated to ISS construction or maintenance, as well as the 58th to begin from the station itself.
NASA is broadcasting the space shuttle Atlantis' STS-117 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for mission updates and SPACE.com's video feed.
- SPACE.com Video Interplayer: Space Station Power Up with STS-117
- STS-117 Power Play: Atlantis Shuttle Crew to Deliver ISS Solar Wings
- Complete Shuttle Mission Coverage
MORE FROM SPACE.com