Second U.S. Spacewalk by Astronauts this Year Completes Robotic Hand Transfer Work

Astronauts move a Canadian built Latching End Effector. Credit: NASA.

Yesterdays spacewalk successfully completed a choreographed series of movements over three spacewalks since last fall to swap MDA built Latching End Effector’s (LEE) from the Canadarm2 to its Mobile Base System and stow one for a return to Earth.

While no spacewalk should be considered routine due to the added dangers astronauts face when venturing outside the International Space Station (ISS), this last one saw the astronauts finish ahead of schedule after moving through their to do list at a brisk pace. The spacewalk was performed by Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and was completed in 5 hours and 57 minutes.

Canadian Space Agency Mobile Base System on the International Space Station
Canadian Space Agency Mobile Base System on the International Space Station. Credit: CSA.

The Latching End Effector’s on the Canadarm2, sometimes referred to as “robotic hands”, have seen their usage increase over the years and had begun showing their age. Last year it was decided to remove both LEE’s on the Canadarm2, one at each end, with one that is located on the Mobile Base System which is sparingly used and the on-board spare. That task is now completed and one of the LEE’s, the most degraded, will be returned to Earth on a future SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft so that it may be refurbished and possibly be used again in the future. In the meantime a ground spare will be flown to the ISS to act as spare on future cargo supply mission.

Canadarm2 Latching End Effector as seen on the October 10th, 2017 spacewalk
Canadarm2 Latching End Effector as seen on the October 10th, 2017 spacewalk. Credit: NASA TV.

Since the astronauts were running ahead of schedule yesterday on the spacewalks they “also conducted a number of get ahead tasks, including the lubrication of the inside of the LEE installed on the International Space Station’s robotic arm during the Jan. 23 spacewalk. They also positioned an interface tool for the Canadian Space Agency’s robotic handyman Dextre, installed a grounding strap on a component of the LEE positioned on one end of the robotic arm, and adjusted a strut on a component on one of the station’s spare parts platforms. That component is a flex hose rotary coupler that transfers liquid ammonia across a connecting point on the station’s backbone to provide cooling for its systems.”

According to the Canadian Space Agency, the LEE’s on the station, including the ground spare heading to the ISS, should last now until at least 2024, which could be the final year of operation of the ISS.

About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactice Inc. Boucher has 18 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 25 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.