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NASA Astronauts Move to Repair, Upgrade Space Station Module

This NASA handout photo shows the core stage for the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket during a scheduled fire test, Jan. 16, 2021, at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss.

Two NASA astronauts are set to embark on two spacewalks in a week’s time outside the International Space Station.

The first of the two spacewalks will be Wednesday and will focus on completing the installation of the Bartolomeo science payloads platform outside the European Space Agency’s Columbus module, according to a NASA media advisory.

The tasks will include the replacement of a nickel-hydrogen battery with a lithium-ion one. The pair will also upgrade cameras with high-definition ones. And adding antenna and cable rigging for power and data connections, including a high-bandwidth link for European ground stations.

The Bartolomeo platform, named for the younger brother of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, was delivered to the space station last March.

NASA flight engineers Michael Hopkins, a veteran of two previous spacewalks, and Victor Glover will be outside the space station for about 6½ hours beginning at 7 a.m. EST.

The second spacewalk, on February 1, will wrap up the battery replacement work, in addition to replacing older cameras with high-definition ones on the Destiny laboratory and upgrading cameras and lights on a robotic arm’s camera system outside the Kibo module.

Both spacewalks will be broadcast on the NASA website, beginning at 5:30 a.m. EST.

Since 2017, the station has been replacing batteries on the module but one of them failed, necessitating the need for replacement now, according to deputy manager of the Space Station, Kenny Todd.

The second spacewalk is expected to “make sure we are good for the long term” after the first walk has installed communication antenna and completed some outfitting work, Todd said.

The astronauts have been preparing for about a year for the mission, he said.

For the past 20 years, 242 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 3,000 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.