Cosmonauts decommission old space station docking module in 7-hour spacewalk

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov conducted their first spacewalk together on June 2, 2021. (Image credit: NASA TV)
Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov conducted their first spacewalk together on June 2, 2021. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Two Russian cosmonauts took a spacewalk outside the International Space Station June 2 to prepare an old docking module for disposal. Expedition 65 Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, opened the hatch of the Poisk airlock at 1:53 a.m. EDT (0553 GMT), marking the beginning of today's spacewalk.

Congratulations, you are outside, at last, Novitskiy said as Dubrov joined him outside the airlock. Neither of the two cosmonauts had been on a spacewalk before.

The duo spent just over 7 hours working in the vacuum of space to decommission the Pirs docking compartment work that began in November with another pair of spacewalkers and complete a few other maintenance tasks outside the station.

For today's spacewalk, Novitskiy and Dubrov worked to disconnect cables and telemetry equipment between Pirs and the Zvezda module, the main component of the Russian portion of the International Space Station.

But first, they worked on some unrelated maintenance tasks, like replacing a fluid flow regulator on the Zarya module. Zarya was the first space station component ever launched and is mostly used as a cargo storage area nowadays. The cosmonauts tossed the old fluid flow regulator unit overboard, casting it adrift in space on a trajectory that will not endanger the space station.

The cosmonauts also had some fun while relocating a telescoping boom from Pirs back to the Poisk module. Not everybody can say that they got to ride the boom, Dubrov said.

Dubrov hitched a ride on the 46-foot (14 meters) Strela boom while Novitskiy reeled it in like a giant fishing pole.

I feel like I'm a worker on a ship, manning the oars, Novitskiy said to Dubrov.

Is it difficult to rotate? Dubrov asked.

No, it's just taking a long time, Novitskiy said.

Following the arrival of the new Nauka module, Novitskiy and Dubrov are expected to take a second spacewalk together to begin installing it, though Roscosmos has not yet announced a date for that spacewalk.

In the meantime, NASA has two spacewalks planned for June 16 and June 20. For those excursions, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet will be continuing ongoing work to install new solar arrays outside the station. The supplies for those spacewalks will arrive at the space station this week on a SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply mission.

And to wrap up a busy month in orbit, the International Space Station will be sending off a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo freighter to safely deorbit on June 27, followed by the arrival of the Russian Progress 78 cargo resupply mission on June 30.

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