Cosmonauts begin spacewalk at International Space Station

Cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Roman Romanenko work near the space station's Pirs airlock module to set up equipment needed for installation of a space weather experiment.

Two cosmonauts opened the hatch of the Pirs airlock compartment Friday to kick off a planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station to install wiring that will be needed by a new Russian laboratory module. They also planned to install a materials science space exposure experiment.

Veteran cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin opened the hatch at 10:39 a.m. EDT (GMT-4) to officially begin Russian spacewalk 34. For identification Yurchikhin, call sign EV-1, is wearing an Orlan spacesuit with red stripes while Misurkin, EV-2, is wearing a suit with blue markings.

The primary goals of the spacewalk are to install two power lines and an ethernet cable that eventually will be connected to the new Russian laboratory module. The lab, known as Nauka, or "science," will replace the Pirs compartment on the Earth-facing port of the Zvezda command module.

The Russians originally planned to launch the lab module aboard a Proton rocket at the end of the year, but officials say the flight is expected to slip several months into the spring of 2014.

During the past several spacewalks, astronauts and cosmonauts have been installing cables that will route power and data to and from the new module. That work will continue during Russian EVA-34.

First out of the hatch, Misurkin will stand by while Yurchikhin passes out a cable carrier and two sets of power lines, a spool of ethernet cable, gap spanners, cable attachments and the space exposure experiment.

The flight plan calls for Yurchikhin and Misurkin to move around the Pirs module and to attach the reel with the two power cables to the end of the Russian Strela 1 space crane.

Misurkin then will move up Strela 1 to the upper Poisk module, on the opposite side of Zvezda from Pirs, temporarily stowing the science pallet and other gear on a handrail before moving to the crane operator's post.

Misurkin then plans to manually extend the crane, carrying Yurchikhin and the cable reel to the interface between the Zarya module and the U.S. segment of the station.

After tethering the boom, Yurchikhin will retrieve a nearby cradle to secure the Strela 1 more firmly. After removing the safety tether, the cosmonaut will relocate a cable connector installed during a previous spacewalk and attach cable guides on the Zarya module.

Misurkin, meanwhile, plans to mount the space exposure pallet on the side of the Poisk module, to attach two connector patch panels and to install a gap spanner between Poisk and Zarya. At that point, Misurkin will make his way forward to join Yurchikhin on Zarya.

With Yurchikhin feeding power line No. 1 from the cable reel, Misurkin plans to route it down Zarya to Poisk, securing it with the cable guides installed earlier. Once at Poisk, Misurkin will plug cable No. 1 into a patch panel and secure any excess cable to a nearby handrail.

Yurchikhin, meanwhile, will secure any cable remaining on the reel to a Zarya handrail. He then will move down Zarya to Poisk, taking up any slack he finds in the cable.

With cable No. 1 secured, Yurchikhin will route the MLM ethernet cable down Zarya's hull, attaching it to previously installed cable clamps. Misurkin will feed the cable from its reel as Yurchikhin moves down the module, attaching it to a Zarya handrail near the U.S.-Russian interface.

Misurkin will take up any slack in the ethernet cable before Yurchikhin routes power cable No. 2 along Zarya back to the FGB patch panel. After the cable is installed and the slack taken out, the two cosmonauts will head back to Pirs to close out the spacewalk.

This is the 172nd spacewalk devoted to station assembly and maintenance since construction began in 1998, the sixth so far this year, the seventh for Yurchikhin and the second for Misurkin. The cosmonauts plan their third spacewalk together next Thursday.

Going into today's excursion, 112 astronauts and cosmonauts representing nine nations had logged 1,075 hours and 22 minutes of ISS EVA time, or 44.8 days.

  • William Harwood

    Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He covered 129 space shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia."