A peak into NASA’s Mission Control in Houston: what looks like a coffee break is actually ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen (centre) hard at work, guiding NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover via radio during last week’s spacewalk.
Spacewalkers are in constant contact with just one person during a spacewalk. This ‘ground IV’ is a fellow astronaut who is experienced with every procedure of a particular spacewalk.
In preparation to guide Mike and Victor through this spacewalk, Andreas previously performed practice runs of the European Columbus KA-band antenna ColKa’s installation at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab – a pool sporting life-sized mock-ups of the International Space Station.
The spacewalk started well. The fridge-sized unit was transported by Victor from the airlock to the worksite on the Canadarm2 robotic arm. There, the spacewalking duo set to work unscrewing and screwing bolts to hold the antenna in place and routing cables for power and data. However, despite seemingly secure connections, the heaters did not activate as expected.
Serving as the interface between the European ground crews and the astronauts, Andreas relayed the situation in space and the solution from ground: remove and jettison the cover. With ColKa’s temporary protective cover safely cast away to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, the temperature dropped and ColKa’s heaters activated. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as they reported the antenna safely installed.
Once fully operational, ColKa will create an additional bi-directional KA-band data transmission for the Space Station, providing a direct link between the Columbus laboratory and Europe, for researchers and astronauts, at home broadband speeds.
Teams at Columbus Control Centre will be carrying out tests this month to ensure it is fully operational. Once all is up and running, ColKa will use the use the European Data Relay System (EDRS) – dubbed the ‘SpaceDataHighway’ – to relay data directly between the Station and European soil via the system’s ground station in Harwell, UK.
ColKa was not the only European facility keeping astronauts busy on Wednesday. Mike and Victor were also tasked with connecting power and data cables for exterior commercial research platform Bartolomeo.
In this case, the spacewalkers were not able to connect all the required power cables between the platform and Columbus. This task will be tackled in a future spacewalk.
Read more details about the spacewalk in this blog post.