Friday, January 21, 2011
One of the busiest weekends aboard the International Space Station began this morning with the start of a Russian spacewalk.
As two cosmonauts prepared to step outside of the station's airlock, on the ground Japan rolled out to it's launch pad their rocket which will deliver several tons of supplies to earth's orbital outpost in space.
Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skripohcka and Dmitry Kondratiev officially began their six hour orbital walk at 9:29 a.m. EST (1429 GMT) today as they opened the hatch of the Russian Pirs module.
The space station was 224 miles high over the central Pacific Ocean approaching Baja California as the walk began.
It is the twenty-seventh spacewalk by the Russians based from the space station.
"A space walk is a big and important event in an ISS space mission, that's why preparations for it receive special attention on Earth," Kondratyev stated on Thursday.
Kondratyev added, "Spacesuit systems provide a supply of oxygen and dispose of carbon monoxide, maintain a comfortable temperature for a cosmonaut and also provide a radio connection." He refered to his suit as "a small spaceship", the Russian Space Agency added.
The only issue of the spacewalk occurred as Kondratiev's medical harness in his Orlan spacesuit malfunctioned prior to airlock depressurization. He was approved to begin the spacewalk under the understanding he was to report how he was feeling over the six hours outside.
As the pair transitioned to the Zvezda service module a half-hour later, they activated an American helmet camera on Skripohcka blue-stripped suit.
The duo began several tasks including the removal of "the impulse plasma injector from Zvezda’s outer surface, and installation of Russia's high-speed data transmission equipment Photon-Gamma intended to study gamma-bursts and optical radiation during thunderstorms", the Russian space agency stated to this reporter.
By 10:10 am, the space walkers were twenty-two minutes ahead of schedule, having completed task number 8 of 30 planned.
Meanwhile on earth, Japan's HII-B rocket was moved out to it's launch pad during the night at 9 a.m. EST.
Japan's largest rocket the HII-B will carry their second supply ship, KOUNOTORI 2 loaded with supplies for the space station in both a pressurized and non-pressurized section.
Launch remains set for Saturday at 12:37 a.m. (2:37 p.m. JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. The flight will mark the HII-B second flight.
On Sunday, the six member crew aboard the station will undock the Russian Progress 40P unmanned craft to make way for next Friday's launch of a fresh supply craft.