NASA: Astronaut will ride robot arm in emergency spacewalk

Spacewalker will attach himself to a robotic arm to lift ammonia pump from space station

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 detached 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 was attached 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.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags hardwareGovernment use of ITNASAEmerging TechnologiesIT in Governmenthardware systemsgovernment

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?