Extra spacewalk for Fuglesang and Curbeam

Christer Fuglesang during his second spacewalk
17 December 2006

Following a successful third spacewalk to finish rewiring the International Space Station’s power system, NASA has added a fourth spacewalk to the timeline to help retract the P6 solar array. ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang and NASA’s Robert Curbeam will head outside the ISS on Monday at around 20:12 CET (19:12 UT).

Sunita Williams and Robert Curbeam completed electrial work on the Station last night during a 7 hour 31 minute spacewalk. The new configuration of the Space Station’s power system opens the way for the addition of new modules, including the European Columbus laboratory due to arrive in orbit in October 2007.

The P6 solar array, which needs to be retracted to make way for new arrays, jammed during attempts to retract it using remote control earlier in the mission.

A kink in the P6 solar array
A kink in the P6 solar array prevented full retraction

As an extra task during their spacewalk, Williams and Curbeam shook the solar array in an effort to free a blockage restricting full retraction.

Their actions helped to retract the array still further, but as their spacesuits were starting to run out of resources, they had to return inside ISS.

The exact timeline for the fourth spacewalk of this Shuttle mission is still being worked out, it is expected to last at least six and a half hours. It will be the third spacewalk for ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang, whilst his spacewalk partner Robert Curbeam, will be the first to participate in four spacewalks in one mission.

Although the addition of an extra spacewalk will delay Shuttle landing by one day, NASA officials are keen to complete this task which is a major objective of the STS-116 Shuttle mission.

Undocking is now scheduled for Tuesday 19 December at 23:09 CET (22:09 UT), with landing planned for Friday 22 December at 21:56 CET (20:56 UT).

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