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Everything NASA has planned as its sets a new record for spacewalks

​The first all-women spacewalk

Everything NASA has planned as its sets a new record for spacewalks

​Weight doesn’t matter — size does

​Weight doesn’t matter — size does

Two astronauts carrying a battery between them (Source: NASA)

The new batteries are actually heavier than the older ones. The nickel-hydrogen batteries weigh 165 kilograms while the lithium-ion replacements weigh 194 kilometers.

But it’s not their weight that makes a difference, since objects appear weightless in space, but their size.

Each of the batteries that the astronauts are replacing is around the same size as half a refrigerator. Their mass has to factored in to determine how they will move.

Upgrading the ISS’ power system

Upgrading the ISS’ power system

Spacewalker Nick Hague switching out batteries outside the ISS on 29 March 2019 (Source: NASA)

The first phase which just kicked off, consists of five spacewalks to replace upgrade the ISS’ power system. Astronauts will switch out nickel-hydrogen batteries for lithium-ion batteries.

Batteries are crucial to the functioning of the ISS since they store power that’s generated by the station’s solar arrays. So, when it’s not in the sunlight — like during Earth’s orbital night — the batteries provide power.

Batteries that will only die with the space station

Batteries that will only die with the space station

The International Space Station (ISS) (Source: NASA)

The overall upgradation of the ISS’ power system is not a new mission for NASA. It began back in January 2017 with similar battery replacements. The project is more than halfway done but there’s still a long way to go.

The older nickel-hydrogen batteries are over 10 years old. The new ones, on the other hand, are expected to last the ISS’ lifetime.

Looking for ‘dark matter’

Looking for ‘dark matter’

NASA's Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (Source:NASA)

The second phase will be a sequence of spacewalks to repair the station’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). The instrument catches particles in space to look for evidence of ‘dark matter’ in the universe.

It has exceeded its three-year lifespan and some components are starting to show signs of wear-and-tear.

The dates for the second phase haven’t been announcement but NASA is tentatively aiming to initiate these spacewalks in November and they will continue on into December.

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