Two astronauts will venture outside the International Space Station for a series of complex spacewalks this month and next to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a cosmic ray detector.
At least four spacewalks currently are planned before the end of this year, the first of which will be conducted Friday, Nov. 15. Dates for the other spacewalks are under review and will be scheduled in the near future.
NASA will provide detailed plans of the spacewalks during a pair of back-to-back briefings at the agencys Johnson Space Center in Houston beginning at 2 p.m. EST Tuesday, Nov. 12. The briefings and coverage of each spacewalk, which will begin at 5:30 a.m., will air live on NASA Television and the agencys website.
To participate in the briefings in person, U.S. media must contact Johnson’s newsroom at 281-483-5111 by 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8. Media who wish to participate by telephone must call Johnson’s newsroom no later than 1:45 p.m. Nov. 12. Those following the briefings on social media may ask questions using #AskNASA.
The first briefing, at 2 p.m., will provide a program and science overview. Participants will be:
- Kenny Todd, space station operations integration manager
- Ken Bollweg, AMS program manager
The second briefing, at 3 p.m., will provide details of the tools, techniques and objectives of each spacewalk. Participants of that briefing will be:
- Jeff Radigan, spacewalk flight director
- Tara Jochim, AMS spacewalk repair project manager
- John Mularski, lead spacewalk officer
Over the course of the spacewalks, Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Drew Morgan will replace a cooling system and fix a coolant leak on AMS, which was delivered to the station in May 2011. The upgraded cooling system will support AMS through the lifetime of the space station.
These spacewalks are considered the most complex of their kind since the Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions, which took place between 1993 and 2009. The AMS originally was designed for a three-year mission and, unlike Hubble, was not designed to be serviced once in space. More than 20 unique tools were designed for the intricate repair work, which will include the cutting and splicing of eight cooling tubes to be connected to the new system, and reconnection of a myriad of power and data cables. Astronauts have never cut and reconnected fluid lines during a spacewalk.
Parmitano and Morgan have spent dozens of hours training specifically for the AMS repair spacewalks. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will help Parmitano and Morgan suit up for the spacewalks and will maneuver the Canadarm2 robotic arm to help position the spacewalkers around the AMS repair worksite. Parmitano has conducted two spacewalks in his career and Morgan has logged three spacewalks since his arrival on the station in July.
AMS whose principal investigator is Nobel laureate physicist Samuel Ting was constructed and tested, and is operated by an international team of 56 institutes from 16 countries organized under U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science sponsorship. AMS has been capturing high-energy cosmic rays to help researchers answer fundamental questions about the nature of antimatter, the unseen “dark matter” that makes up most of the mass in the universe, and the even-more-mysterious dark energy that is speeding up the expansion of the cosmos. AMS is managed by the AMS Integration Project Office at Johnson.