Spacewalk: Astronauts swap coolant pumps on $2 billion cosmic ray detector – CBS News


Immediately after prepping their individual — a $2 billion cosmic ray detector — through two previously spacewalks, two space station astronauts ventured back outside the house for a 3rd outing Monday to carry out what amounted to transplant operation, setting up substitute coolant pumps in a bid to revive the pricey instrument and prolong its everyday living.

The get the job done required European Room Company astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA crewmate Drew Morgan to attach the 350-pound pump module to the seven.five-ton Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, plug in ability and details cables and then splice with each other eight existing coolant lines that had been minimize through the crew’s second spacewalk.

The AMS was not designed to be serviced in orbit and connecting, or “swaging,” the small, relatively fragile coolant traces though doing work in pressurized spacesuits was regarded as an specifically difficult activity, rivaling work to restore some of the Hubble Place Telescope’s most delicate systems.

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Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, upper remaining and anchored to the stop of the space station’s robotic arm, carries a 350-pound pump module that he and crewmate Drew Morgan successfully attached to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. The prime part of the seven.five-ton instrument is noticeable just to the right of a spare pieces pallet extending upward in the center of the frame.

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But 4 many years of arranging and schooling compensated off, and the astronauts had no complications operating by way of their fix checklist, finishing all of the demanded connections. They returned to the Global Place Station’s Quest airlock at twelve:33 p.m. EST to wrap up a six-hour, two-minute tour.

“You guys, I have to say, manufactured that glance uncomplicated today,” Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen radioed from mission command in Houston. “A actually great position. We’re in a great posture to get AMS up and managing on the following EVA (spacewalk).”

The crew claimed a modest volume of water in Parmitano’s spacesuit at the close of the outing, a reminder that he was forced to make an unexpected emergency return to the airlock through a 2013 spacewalk when his helmet flooded with water from the suit’s cooling technique. It was not right away known exactly where the water noticed Monday arrived from or what effect, if any, it may have on the crew’s ideas for a fourth and last AMS fix spacewalk.

A last tour is needed to make guaranteed the AMS coolant program is leak-no cost and to reinstall insulation before the instrument can be reactivated.

But the crew’s December routine is jam-packed, with the arrival of U.S. and Russian cargo ships and Boeing’s Starliner industrial crew capsule, which is scheduled for start to the station on an unpiloted take a look at flight all-around December 17. Whether the crew can squeeze in yet another spacewalk among now and the close of the yr is not nevertheless regarded.

But the crew was thrilled finding by means of the 1st three spacewalks without any main troubles, crediting their schooling groups for the successful do the job.

“With any luck , with the following EVA, we will locate out all this get the job done was put to excellent use,” Parmitano radioed.

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Anchored to the conclude of the International Room Station’s robot arm, Luca Parmitano, correct, holds a 350-pound substitution coolant pump module that will be attached to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer cosmic ray detector. Astronaut Drew Morgan is noticeable at leading proper. 

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Floating in the Quest airlock compartment, Parmitano and Morgan switched their spacesuits to battery power at 6:31 a.m. EST to formally kick off the 11th spacewalk so far this calendar year, the 224th devoted to station assembly and upkeep considering the fact that development commenced in 1998.

Launched to the room station in 2011, the AMS was designed to review higher-strength cosmic rays to glean clues about what happened to the antimatter presumably made all through the big bang in equal evaluate with regular matter. Issue and antimatter annihilate on contact, and it truly is not very clear why the universe is dominated by ordinary subject today.

The AMS also may drop mild on the nature of the unseen dark issue permeating the universe and the mysterious dark electrical power that appears to be rushing up the expansion of the cosmos.

To reach the demanded sensitivity, the AMS detectors ought to be chilled applying carbon dioxide coolant pushed via the instrument in skinny strains the width of a pencil. At first designed to work for just 3 years, the AMS chalked up 8 a long time of operation in advance of staying hobbled by coolant pump failures.

To repair the procedure, engineers came up with a four-spacewalk prepare to set up a customized-developed module containing four potent pumps and a reservoir of fresh new carbon dioxide coolant. For the reason that the AMS was not intended to be serviced, engineers experienced to occur up with a selection of progressive applications and procedures, requiring many years of setting up, growth and instruction.

“Some thing that is definitely, seriously awesome for an astronaut is to basically be section of the enhancement of an EVA,” Parmitano mentioned for the duration of pre-flight teaching. “I have been lucky sufficient to have been aspect of the development workforce from the beginning, originally just as a guide and then … as a exam subject matter for some of the applications.

“We’re likely to conduct what could be considered open coronary heart surgery on this amazing experiment. We’re likely to cut tubes, and install a fully new pump to aid the refrigeration perform, holding the magnet chilly so the the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer can operate. This is genuinely the 1st time any of these actions have been tried.”

All through spacewalks November fifteen and 22, Parmitano and Morgan taken off a protecting panel from the AMS, exposing the thermal handle procedure. Then they lower zip ties and pulled again insulation, slice by way of a line to vent residual coolant overboard and then slice 8 coolant circulation traces, environment the stage for Monday’s spacewalk.

“The third EVA is when we deliver out the new pump process, we set up that, and then we have acquired … 8 tubes that we’re connecting,” stated Brian Mader, an engineer at the Johnson Space Middle who assisted design the repair get the job done. “It really is a piece of artwork. It really is seriously astounding how … the engineers figured out how to coil these tubes on the box.”

The pump module contains four modest pumps, a spherical carbon dioxide tank and knowledge and energy cables. To splice it into the AMS thermal command system, Parmitano and Morgan linked the eight previously cut coolant lines, a single by a single, successfully splicing, or “swaging,” them jointly utilizing customized resources.

While the operate appeared to go smoothly, the process will not be pressurized till the fourth spacewalk when Parmitano and Morgan will be equipped to tighten fittings as necessary to ensure leak-no cost efficiency. The moment the ultimate spacewalk is comprehensive, engineers will press forward with re-activating the AMS and resuming science functions.