NASA expert explains battery replacement spacewalks on ISS
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Emergency alarms were sounded in the Russian segment of the space station on Thursday, prompting fears of a fire. According to reports in Russian media, smoke and burning plastic were detected in the 21-year-old Zvezda module, which provides docking ports for Russian Soyuz and Progress capsules. The ISS crew reported the incident to Mission Control early in the morning and the incident has been confirmed by the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.
Russian officials have said the incident occurred when the station’s batteries were being recharged.
The space station’s crew has since taken the necessary precautions to remove any harmful substances from the space station’s filtered oxygen supply, before resuming their “night rest”.
The incident was not expected to impact today’s planned spacewalk.
At least two experiments involving fire and combustion are being performed on the ISS, neither of which are located in the Zvezda module.
Cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov are now well on their way to complete their spacewalk to fully integrate the recently docked Nauka module, some 250 miles above the planet’s surface.
Nauka caused a stir earlier this summer when it unexpectedly caused the ISS to perform a barrel roll, shortly after docking to the station.
The two Expedition 65 astronauts have donned their heavy spacesuits and have opened the Poisk airlock to brave the vacuum of space at about 3.51pm BST.
NASA expects the two men to spend about six-and-a-half hours outside of the ISS.
The spacewalk is being broadcast live with commentary on NASA TV.
Their main task of the spacewalk will involve running power and ethernet connections to Nauka, as well as installing handrails on the multipurpose laboratory.
The cosmonauts, who have previously conducted three spacewalks each, will also continue tasks previously pencilled in for a September 3 spacewalk.
Despite the mission being cleared to go ahead, some social media users have expressed their fears about the incident.
One Twitter user said: “It’s past time for a de-orbit plan for ISS. A fire on ISS is a terrifying possibility and a top safety risk.
“Flames in low-gravity spread very quickly. Depending on the crew’s location a Soyuz lifeboat could be far away, and they are difficult to enter.”
And a second person said: “I think there is more behind this than meets the eye.
“#Putin would love to knock the ISS out of commission and this is part of his plan – Smoke and fire alarms go off on International Space Station”
A second spacewalk is presently scheduled for early on Sunday to install a “modification kit” on the space station’s port truss.
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Earlier today, Mr Hoshide and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei worked on a pair of different combustion experiments.
One of these experiments is the Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments or ACME.
NASA said: “The ACME project is a set of six independent studies of gaseous flames to be conducted in the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR).”
The primary goal of the study is to improve fuel efficiency and reduce the production of pollutants in combustion on Earth.
A secondary goal of the study is to improve spacecraft fire prevention “through innovative research focused on materials flammability”.
The second experiment is the Solid Combustion Experiment Module (SCEM).
NASA explained: “The SCEM is designed to acquire data on the limiting oxygen concentration that flame spread over solid fuels is sustained.
“Also, it is possible to obtain the limiting electric current that self-ignition of the insulated wires due to short-circuit occurs.”
There are presently seven astronauts stationed on the orbital laboratory.
These are Pyotr Dubrov, Oleg Novitskiy, Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, Mark Vande Hei, Thomas Pesquet and Akihiko Hoshide.
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