Spacewalking cosmonauts activate space station’s newest Russian module

Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov work outside the Prichal module Wednesday. Credit: NASA/Mark Vande Hei

Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov completed a 7-hour, 11-minute spacewalk Wednesday outside the International Space Station, preparing Russia’s new Prichal module for the arrival of the next Soyuz crew spacecraft in March.

Wearing Orlan spacesuits, Shkaplerov and Dubrov began their spacewalk at 7:17 a.m. EST (1217 GMT) Wednesday and exited the space station through the hatch of the Russian Poisk airlock.

The cosmonauts floated to the Prichal module on the opposite side of the space station’s Russian segment. They began work to outfit the new module for its role as a docking port for future Soyuz spacecraft ferrying crews to and from the complex.

The activities included installing antennas and connecting cables for the passive side of the Russian Kurs radar navigation system used to guide visiting vehicles in for docking. The cosmonauts also installed handrails, docking targets, and a television camera outside the Prichal module, readying the new element for docking of a three-man crew on a Soyuz spacecraft in March.

The spacewalk concluded at 2:28 p.m. EST (1928 GMT) after 7 hours and 11 minutes. It was the first spacewalk outside the space station the year, and the 246th overall in support of space station assembly, maintenance, and upgrades, according to NASA.

Shkaplerov completed the third spacewalk of his career. The excursion was the fourth spacewalk for Dubrov.

The Prichal module linked up with the space station’s Nauka module Nov. 26, two days after launching on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Prichal is the last major Russian addition planned for the International Space Station.

The arrival of the Prichal module in November followed the docking of the Nauka lab module in July.

Another series of Russian spacewalks in April will focus on outfitting the exterior of the Nauka module, including activating the European Robotic Arm.

The second major event at the space station this week will be the undocking of a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship from the Harmony module. That departure was originally scheduled for Friday, but NASA said Thursday that the undocking has been delayed to Saturday to wait for better weather in the Dragon capsule’s splashdown zone off the coast of Florida.

Undocking is set for 10:40 a.m. EST (1540 GMT) Saturday, followed by re-entry and splashdown Sunday around 4 p.m. EST (2100 GMT).

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