A Russian “spacewalk” outside the International Space Station (ISS) was cut short on Wednesday (August 17) after a cosmonaut encountered a spacesuit problem.
Mission control in Moscow ordered Expedition 67 commander Oleg Artemiev to return to the airlock after reporting a problem with the Orlan spacesuit: the suit’s battery had experienced a voltage fluctuation.
“Drop everything you’re doing and come right back! Oleg, go back and connect to the station,” Vladimir Solovyov, a former cosmonaut and now flight director of the Russian segment of the ISS, relayed to cosmonaut Vladimir Solovyov.
A problem with a cosmonaut’s spacesuit cut short an ISS maintenance mission
Although Artemiev was not in any immediate danger, if the power to his spacesuit had stopped completely, he would also have lost the ability to communicate with his colleague, Denis Matveev, and the flight controllers on the ground, until when it would have been able to connect to the International Space Station’s power supply.
“I received and understood,” said Artemiev, as he turned to the airlock on the space-facing side of the Poisk research minimodule, where he and Matveev had begun their spacewalk, reports Space.com.
“I think we need some solar panels on Orlan so we can recharge them during extravehicular activity,” Artemiev said after re-entering the airlock after nearly two and a half hours of the mission’s planned 6.5 hours .
What was the mission of the two cosmonauts?
Artemiev and Matveev, both part of Roscosmos, were sent outside the station to continue fitting out a European robotic arm that was mounted on the orbital complex in July 2021.
Before their exit was cut short, Artemiev and Matveev had successfully installed two cameras in the elbow areas of the European Robotic Arm (ERA) and removed thermal insulation from the “hands” at opposite ends of the arm as well.
The two cosmonauts had also been tasked with moving an external control panel for the arm from one operating area to another and testing a stiffening mechanism on the arm that would be used to facilitate the attachment of payloads. These goals have been deferred to a future spacewalk.
A new robotic arm
Once fully configured, the European robotic arm will be used to move cargo and equipment out of the Russian segment of the space station. ERA, provided by the European Space Agency, joins the Canadarm2 robotic arm, built in Canada, and the Japanese Kibo arm, which already support maintenance, operations and research from outside the orbital complex.
After waiting for the robotic arm to be maneuvered into storage configuration, Matveev joined Artemiev back inside the lock, marking the end of their “walk”. In total, the “spacewalk” lasted 4 hours and 1 minute.
How much time, in total, did the cosmonaut spend in space before this spacesuit problem occurred?
This was the seventh “spacewalk” this year and the 252nd supporting the assembly, modernization and maintenance of the International Space Station since its launch to date.
The mission was also the seventh extravehicular activity for Artemiev, who has now logged 45 hours and 45 minutes of work in the vacuum of space; and the third for Matveev, who spent 18 hours and 20 minutes in space.