U.S. astronauts perform tasks during space walk outside station

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 01, 2016 1:02 PM

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Two U.S. astronauts went for a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Thursday to pack up a spare cooling radiator and install a high-definition television camera outside the orbiting laboratory, a NASA TV broadcast showed.

Commander Jeffrey Williams and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins left the station's airlock around 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) as the station sailed 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

"It's good to be out here," said Rubins, 37, who was making her second spacewalk in two weeks.

On Aug. 19, Rubins and Williams installed a docking system to enable commercial space taxis currently in development to park at the station, breaking Russia's monopoly on crew transport.

Test flights of Space Exploration Technology's Crew Dragon capsule are expected to begin next year, followed by the debut of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner in 2018.

It was not immediately known what impact, if any, the loss of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket during a routine prelaunch test in Florida on Thursday would have on the company's other programs.

For Thursday's spacewalk, which was scheduled to last six and a half hours, the astronauts headed to far end of the station to retract a radiator that was last used in 2012 to trouble-shoot a cooling system leak.

Folding up the panel will protect it from strikes by micrometeors and orbital debris, NASA flight director Zeb Scoville told reporters during an Aug. 24 press conference.

"We really want to be able to get it retracted and covered up so we can count on it in the future, should the need arise," Scoville said.

Williams, who was making his fifth spacewalk, and Rubins then plan to install a high-definition camera on the station's truss so ground controllers can better inspect the Russian Soyuz capsules that ferry crew members to and from the station, a $100 billion project in which 15 nations are participating.

Williams, along with Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka, are scheduled to climb aboard one of the two Soyuz docked at the station on Tuesday, ending their 172-day mission.

Williams, 58, will return home as NASA's most-experienced astronaut. During his four space flights, including three stints aboard the space station, Williams surpassed the 520-day cumulative record of former U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly with a record 534 days in orbit.

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka holds the world record with 878 days in space.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Alan Crosby)