NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold will venture outside the International Space Station today (June 14) for a 6.5-hour spacewalk, and you can watch it live online.
The two spacewalkers will work to prepare the space station for the arrival of the first commercial crew vehicles later this year. NASA began live coverage of the spacewalk at 6:30 a.m. EDT (1030 GMT), when the spacewalkers are suiting up and getting ready to head out for the day. They are scheduled to depart through the Quest airlock at approximately 8:10 a.m. EDT (1210 GMT). You can watch it live here and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of NASA TV.
Feustel and Arnold will spend the day installing new brackets and high-definition cameras outside the station's Harmony module. This equipment will help incoming spacecraft line up with the International Docking Adapter, a new port that was installed during a spacewalk in 2016. [Expedition 56: Awesome Space Station Mission Photos]
The new high-definition cameras "will provide enhanced views during the final phase of approach and docking of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner commercial crew spacecraft that will soon begin launching from American soil," NASA officials said in a statement.
But watching spacecraft dock is not the only thing these cameras are designed to do. "They also form part of an external wireless communication system," Keith Johnson, NASA's lead spacewalk officer for today's mission, said in a news conference on May 8. "So, they will be able to talk to the Japanese Exposed Facility payloads that will be out there, and the Columbus module is going to have a big set of experiments that are coming up, and this is out there to provide communication to that."
Both SpaceX 's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner are scheduled to take their first demo flights to the space station in August. No passengers will be on board for these initial test flights, but the two private vessels will begin ferrying astronauts to and from the orbiting lab in 2020.
To make it possible for those spacecraft to dock at the space station, astronauts have been taking spacewalks to install new hardware (like the International Docking Adapter and high-definition cameras) during a series of spacewalks since 2014.
Today's spacewalk marks the third this year for this spacewalking duo and the 211th spacewalk overall at the International Space Station. It will the ninth spacewalk of Feustel's career and the fifth for Arnold.
Feustel and Arnold completed two previous spacewalks together, on May 16 and March 29. During those spacewalks, they installed new communications equipment for future commercial crew vehicles, replaced a leaky pump and tackled various upgrades and maintenance tasks.