As prepared by NASA, two astronauts will be starting a series of activities, mainly spacewalks this week at the International Space Station. The spacewalk aims to repair some of the damaged instruments that are located outside the Space Station. Initially, the International Space Station was not designed for repairing while in orbit. On November 12, in a pair of press conferences, the NASA officials announced that two astronauts, Andrew Morgan, NASA astronaut, and Luca Parmitano, European Space Agency astronaut would be conducting a spacewalk outside the International Space station on November 15. The aim is to start working on the replacement of the cooling system that is present on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) instrument mounted on the truss of the station.
This spacewalk will be a part of four total spacewalks that got planned outside the International Space Station for the installation of a new cooling system. The cooling system has been on the International Space Station since 2011. Out of a total of four pumps, three pumps have failed in the cooling system. It is estimated that the last remaining working pump is also likely to go out of service within the next few months, if not repaired. The AMS instrument works for the detection and measurement of the energy released from the cosmic rays. Initially, no plans were made to accommodate servicing of this instrument once it was installed and activated in the Space Station. Due to this reason, the preparation of the spacewalks which are intended to repair the cooling system of the instrument is considered as one of the biggest challenges as of yet.
The AMS spacewalk repair project manager, Tara Jochim, stated that there had been many confusions and doubts regarding the repair of the cooling system of the AMS. Jochim further added that the hardware pieces that are supposed to help and work in a spacewalk, as well as the instrument that needs repairing, were all made on the ground. Therefore, specialized tools to minimize the risk for the astronauts while they will be outside have been developed.