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.
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.
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.