Spacewalking astronauts swap out space station’s batteries

How to watch first NASA spacewalk of 2019 during International Space Station upgrade

NASA Expedition 59 Flight Engineers Nick Hague of Hoxie, Kansas and Anne McClain will begin a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station at about 7 a.m. CDT Friday, March 22. Hague is designated extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the suit with no stripes, and with helmet camera #17.

The batteries store power generated by the station's solar arrays to provide power to the station when the station is not in the sunlight, as it orbits the Earth during orbital night, according to NASA. Over the next couple of years, more batteries will be delivered and used to replace older batteries.

Friday's spacewalk is the first of three planned excursions to replace batteries and perform other maintenance. In all, NASA plans to swap out 12 of the old batteries for six new ones.

The goal of the outing is to finish a job already started by flight controllers using the station's robot arm: replacing six massive nickel-hydrogen batteries on the port, or left, side of the station's power truss with three more powerful 300-pound lithium-ion batteries. That power is funneled to batteries on the spacecraft, and those batteries then power the various instruments and tools of the ISS when it's in the shadow of the Earth. The spacewalking work continues the overall upgrade of the station's power system that began with similar battery replacement during spacewalks in January 2017.

The station's eight electrical power channels originally were supported by 48 nickel-hydrogen - NiH2 - batteries, six per channel. "But the space station, it's been up here for 20 years, and it's time to do some upgrades on the outside, and we are ready".

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