Two cosmonauts set a new record for the longest Russian spacewalk after going out of the International Space Station to conduct a long-awaited upgrade to the Russian side of the communications system.
Expedition 54 Cmdr. Alexander Misurkin and flight engineer Anton Shkaplerov opened the hatch of the Pirs airlock at 0:35 a.m. EST (1535 GMT), marking the beginning of their spacewalk. They spent eight hours and 13 minutes working outside, Space.com reports.
Rob Navias , NASA TV commentator, said during a live webcast of the spacewalk,
It is Groundhog Day…and as cosmonauts have emerged from the Pirs docking compartment, ultimately they’ll see their shadow…thus earning 6 more hours of spacewalk activity.
Clad in their Russian Orlan spacesuits, the two cosmonauts spent the day replacing an electronics box for a high-gain communications antenna on the Zvezda service module. They tossed the outdated version out, where it will burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The old box was idle on the ISS for 17 years while Russia struggled through a funding crisis to get its new Lunch satellite networks running.
Navias said, “This will upgrade the performance telemetry and high-data-rate capability on the Russian segment of the ISS and make it similar to the data rate seen in the U.S. Ku band communications system on the U.S. segment.”
The elimination of the old device took time and effort, as the device was not meant to be serviced or removed while in orbit. The cosmonauts tossed the old box behind the ISS to prevent it from hitting the station, and also left behind two towels in order to keep from getting an “foreign debris” inside.
The cosmonauts had a difficult time, especially in their seventh hour when the high-gain antenna failed to deploy. Ground controllers had folded the antenna, but it would not unfold when the command was sent. The cosmonauts had to wrestle with the antenna to fix it, and managed to get it deployed, albeit in the wrong position. However, it is now “operating and in good shape,” despite being 180 degrees askew.
The cosmonauts beat the previous record set by Expedition 38 cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazanski on Dec. 27, 2013. by just 5 minutes.