NASA’s about to kick off the Super Bowl of spacewalks — that would be 10 extravehicular activities in just a couple of months — with the first outing today (Oct. 6).
You can check out the activities of all the spacewalks, including the first one, live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV. Coverage of this first spacewalk will start at 6:30 a.m. EDT (1030 GMT), and the spacewalk is scheduled to start at about 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT). Two spacewalkers are expected to spend about 6.5 hours working outside the orbiting lab.
Exiting the International Space Station will be NASA Expedition 61 astronauts Christina Koch (who is two-thirds of the way through a nearly one-year mission) and Andrew Morgan. The pair will start the complicated installation of new lithium-ion batteries that came to the station Sept. 28 on a Japanese cargo spacecraft called HTV-8.
NASA’s subsequent four spacewalks will continue activating these batteries, which will be located on the Port 6 truss structure and are meant to replace much older ones. The space station has been in operation for more than 20 years, and just like in older houses, components on the ISS must be repaired or replaced from time to time to keep the occupants safe and productive.
While the space station can generate power using its solar arrays, the batteries are used to provide continuous power (especially when the ISS is in shadow, which usually takes place for about half of its 90-minute orbit). Power is needed on the station for experiments, equipment and astronaut living quarters.
The spacewalking astronauts will be assisted by European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano, who will stay inside the space station and will, with NASA’s mission control in Houston, guide the spacewalking movements during the activity.
NASA plans another set of five spacewalks around November to install an upgraded thermal-control system on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). This instrument searches for dark matter — a poorly understood material in space thought to help drive the expansion of the universe — as well as antimatter. AMS has been in service since May 2011.
There have been 219 spacewalks at the ISS since December 1998, according to NASA. These include 165 spacewalks conducted in U.S. spacesuits (also known as extravehicular mobility units) and 54 conducted in Russian Orlan spacesuits.