ISS: what will the spacewalks planned for January 2017 be used for?

The beginning of 2017 will be marked by two major events for the crew members of the International Space Station since two spacewalks are planned, including one for the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

Two spacewalks are therefore planned over the next few weeks for the members of the ISS crew. On January 6, 2017, Mission Commander Shane Kimbrough will be accompanied by engineer Peggy Whitson for a first outing. Then, on January 13, 2017, Captain Shane Kimbrough will put on his suit again for a second outing, this time accompanied by Thomas Pesquet who will then become the 11th European to live this experience. An extravehicular activity (EVA) that should last up to seven hours.

Why these outings?

 » Two spacewalks are needed in January as part of an upgrade to replace old batteries with new lithium-ion batteries. », writes the European Space Agency (ESA) in a press release published on December 16th. The ISS works thanks to its 2500 m² of solar panels. However, when the station is in Earth’s shadow for approximately 35 minutes per 90-minute orbit, batteries are charged to take over to prevent a blackout.

These new batteries traveled with other supplies from Japan in mid-December aboard the Kounotori 6 cargo spacecraft. Those that will be installed and commissioned during these two spacewalks are designed to last ten years, or more than the lifetime of the ISS itself since it should be decommissioned before that.

It will be possible to follow these two spacewalks live directly from the NASA TV channel accessible by clicking on this link. On his Facebook page, the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet was very impatient about this release, a new dream that will come true for him.

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