NASA: Astronaut will ride robot arm in emergency spacewalk
Spacewalker will attach himself to a robotic arm to lift ammonia pump from space station
Computerworld - Astronauts will use robotics in at least one of two emergency spacewalks that have been set up to make critical repairs to the International Space Station after part of its cooling system stopped working over the weekend.
To get the ailing space station back up and running, an astronaut will ride a robotic arm 210 miles above the Earth and while moving at 17,500 miles an hour.
A failed ammonia pump on the orbiting station triggered alarms Saturday evening, waking the six astronauts on board. Astronauts immediately began shutting down several systems that aren't needed for life support to lessen the strain on the station's one remaining working coolant system. According to NASA, two gyroscopes were shut down, along with power converters and communication and GPS back-up systems.
NASA reported that engineers working from Ground Control tried to remotely restart the ammonia pump on Sunday but could not get it working again.
Rob Navias, a NASA spokesman at the Johnson Space Center, told Computerworld today that the agency expects astronauts Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, who have been living on the station, to conduct two emergency spacewalks. The first spacewalk is expected on Thursday; the second will likely take place on Sunday or next Monday.
There are two spare pumps already onboard the space station. The pumps push extremely cold liquid ammonia through the station to get rid of excess heat from the orbiter's systems and laboratories. They're critical to keeping the orbiter from overheating, which would affect the people onboard, as well as the technology supporting the astronauts and their scientific work.
The spacewalkers will need to detach the failed ammonia pump from the outside of the space station and then replace it with a new pump.
According to Navias, the astronauts will rely on the station's primary robotic arm, dubbed Canadarm II, for much of the work scheduled for Thursday. One astronaut will be secured in a foot restraint on the end of the robotic arm while he removes the failed ammonia tank from the station.
"Instead of being tethered and free floating, this provides leverage for the crew member," said Navias. "With their feet planted they're able to move the mass of this object around with less difficulty... It'll save us a lot of time."
Canadarm II is frequently used during spacewalks at the station.
In April, the robotic arm was used to lift a replacement ammonia tank out of space shuttle Discovery and move it into place on the outside of the station.
Canadarm also was used in February when it helped to move and attach a seven-window cupola to the space station. The cupola, which now serves as a central command post for the station's robotics work, also has the added bonus of providing the space station crew with a stellar view.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about Emerging Technologies in Computerworld's Emerging Technologies Topic Center.
- Market Overview: Digital Customer Experience Delivery Platforms Forrester states that businesses today struggle to understand and use the tools necessary to create and manage unified, multichannel digital customer experiences across...
- The Growing Demand for Rich Media This white paper discusses how IBM Customer Experience Suite Rich Media Edition can automate rich media workflows, from collaborating with creative agencies and...
- Three Best Practices to Help Enterprises Overcome BYOD Challenges The new Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) environment presents challenges for IT managers and business leaders. This paper discusses how IT managers can address those challenges,...
- Intelligent Imaging for Improved Banking Performance and Profitability A new generation of "Intelligent Imaging" solutions has emerged that is helping banks remove the burden of paper in legacy processes, like loan...
- NSS Labs & Cisco Present: Evaluating Leading Breach Detection Systems Today's constantly evolving advanced malware and APTs can evade point-in-time defenses to penetrate networks. Security professionals must evolve their strategy in lockstep to...
- Will the Real Endpoint Threat Detection and Response Please Stand Up? This webinar explores new technologies & process for protecting endpoints from advanced attackers as well as the innovations that are pushing the envelope... All Emerging Technologies White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!