The Cosmic House has been in operation for over 20 years (since December 2000) and since then it has been continuously using the energy generated by a set of 8 34-meter long solar panels, giving the ISS its distinctive appearance. Unfortunately, after so many years in unfavorable cosmic conditions, the panels begin to show signs of degradation and require intervention. Therefore, NASA and its partners have produced 6 new ones, which are essentially enlarged versions of the Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology, tested at the station since June 2017. The new panels will be placed in front of the old ones and when they are operational, they will allow the generating capacity of the stations to be increased from 160 to 215 kilowatts.
However, before the panels can be embedded in special supports, these structures must be installed on the outside of the ISS. Their assembly was assigned to two of the station’s astronauts, Kathleen Rubins and Victor Glover, who undertook the first part of this task on February 28. The installation operation lasted 7 hours and 4 minutes, and it was not without problems, because one of the elements did not want to cooperate and required a bit more effort than planned. Ultimately, however, everything worked out, so the crew is ready for the next step, i.e. assembly of structures for the next panel.
And although it may seem that such a cosmic walk is a piece of cake and it should not be made a bigger event, it should be remembered that Kathleen Rubins undertook it wearing a 127 kg suit, and the work was done by hanging on the structure that rotates around the Earth at 8 km / h. As we mentioned, in a few days, the astronauts will go on a similar trip to assemble the installation for the next panel, and this is scheduled for March 5 – this is again a task for Rubins, but this time it will be accompanied by JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi. According to NASA, the first two panels will hit the station thanks to SpaceX later this year, and then more will be delivered in the next two missions.