USA and Japanese astronauts conduct spacewalk to fix robot arm on ISS

Japanese astronaut Kanai begins spacewalk

Japanese astronaut Kanai begins spacewalk

Two astronauts traveled outside the International Space Station (ISS) today at 7:10 a.m. EST (12:10 GMT) and spent 6.5 hours outside the station working.

Those LEEs are used to grapple incoming spacecraft, and they allow the 58-foot-long (17.6 meters) Canadarm2 to move around the outside of the station nearly like a giant, robotic inchworm.

Vande Hei and Kanai accomplished their main objectives so fast that they had time to tackle extra chores. It is routinely used to move spacewalking astronauts and components about the station's exterior and it is required to capture visiting USA cargo ships, pulling them in for berthing and later releasing them from the station.

Vande Hei and Kanai are scheduled to set their spacesuit batteries to internal power at 7:10 a.m. signifying the official start of the US spacewalk.

The spacewalk is the third over the past four months devoted to overhauling the station's robot arm.

Mark Vande Hei from NASA and Norishige Kanai from the Japanese space agency had to go outside the ISS to relocate deteriorated LEEs (latching end effectors).

That device will be kept at the station as a spare. He is the first to do so in about 5 years. During that spacewalk, the degraded LEE was temporarily stored on the station's Mobile Base System (MBS), a portable platform that serves as a base for Canadarm2.

This LEE was replaced during an Expedition 53 spacewalk in October 2017, and will be returned to Earth to be refurbished and relaunched to the orbiting laboratory as a spare.

Those issues were later resolved through software updates written by Canadian Space Agency robotics specialists.

During a spacewalk on February 16, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei used the ballscrew lubrication tool to lubricate a latching end effector that was installed during a previous spacewalk on January 23.

Replied Vande Hei: "It was great to be a small part of a team in space representing a whole space team on the ground". During Friday's spacewalk, Vande Hei and Kanai planned to detach it and haul the mechanism back to the airlock. A half-hour later, they were soaring over London and, 15 minutes after that, over Turkmenistan.