FILE - This May 23, 2010 image provided by NASA shows the International Space Station with the Earth in the background made from the space shuttle Atlantis after undocking. On Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, NASA said the White House was poised to announce an extension of the space station's lifetime until at least 2024. The previous end-of-life date was 2020. (AP Photo/NASA)
Space station cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev began a planned six-hour and 15-minute spacewalk at 10:02 a.m. EDT (GMT-4) Monday (8/18), launching a small Peruvian science satellite before pressing ahead with work to change out external experiments and to carry out routine maintenance.
For identification, Skvortsov, call sign EV-1, is wearing a spacesuit with red stripes equipped with NASA helmet camera No. 18 while Artemyev, EV-2, is using a suit with blue stripes and helmetcam 17. This is the 181st spacewalk devoted to station assembly and maintenance since construction began in 1998, the fourth so far this year and the second for both Skvortsov and Artemyev.
Artemyev was first out of the hatch, releasing a small nanosatellite in the station's wake as the lab complex sailed 260 miles above the southern Pacific Ocean approaching the coast of Chile. The 4-inch-wide cube-shaped satellite could be seen tumbling away against the backdrop of Earth as Artemyev looked on from just outside the Pirs module.
The Chasqui-1 satellite was provided by the Peruvian National University of Engineering, working with the Russian federal space agency. The solar-powered "cubesat," brought to the station last February aboard a Progress supply ship, is equipped with a visible and infrared camera system, a radio transmitter and an attitude control system.
The 2.2-pound satellite "represents an unprecedented effort in our country for the first time to achieve access to space and gives us the opportunity to open new fields to our own specific geographic and social reality application," the university says on its web site. "It is also, from an academic point of view, a tool that facilitates collaboration (and) trains students and teachers with real-world experience in satellites."
With the nanosat deployed, the flight plan called for Skvortsov to hand out an experiment package known as Expose-R that will be attached to the station's hull. Expose-R is loaded with a variety of biological samples ranging from plant seeds to spores, fungi and ferns. The samples will be exposed to the space environment for a year and a half before retrieval and return to Earth.
Both cosmonauts then will make their way to a universal work platform on the hull of the Zvezda command module where Expose-R will be attached and plugged into the Russian telemetry system. With the experiment in place, the spacewalkers will take close-out photos and then move to an automatic phased array antenna and install a clamp to make the assembly more secure.
After collecting samples of possible rocket thruster residue on a service module window, Skvortsov and Artemyev will make their way back to the Pirs hatch to pick up two experiment packages. One, a plume impingement deposit monitoring device, will be mounted on the hull of the upper Poisk docking compartment.
The cosmonauts then planned to remove a space exposure experiment package from Poisk, replacing it with another they brought up from Pirs. The old experiment tray, along with a panel from another space exposure experiment, will be brought back to Pirs and placed inside.
While Skvortsov is taking care of that, Artemyev planned to move around to the far side of Pirs and retrieve biorisk container No. 3, yet another space exposure experiment, and pass it inside to Skvortsov.
Artemyev then will enter Pirs and the cosmonauts will close the hatch, bringing Russian EVA-39 to a close.
NASA had planned to carry out two U.S. spacewalks of its own this month, one to move a failed pump module to a long-term storage position on the station's solar power truss and the other to replace a critical solar array electrical component. But the EVAs were put on hold pending arrival of replacement spacesuit batteries.
The new batteries are scheduled for launch aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship Sept. 19. Assuming that flight stays on schedule, NASA flight engineer Reid Wiseman and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst could venture outside for their first spacewalk sometime in early October, pending management approval, replacing a solar array power system device known as a sequential shunt unit.
Wiseman and astronaut Barry "Butch" Wilmore, scheduled for launch aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft Sept. 25, then would be clear to carry out the pump relocation spacewalk later in October.
Of the two planned spacewalks, the SSU replacement is the most critical for NASA. The space station has been operating with seven of its eight major solar power feeds since early May because of problems with one of the eight sequential shunt units used to regulate solar array output.
Equipment on power channel 3A had to be switched over to power channel 3B in May and while that has not caused any major problems for the station, mission managers want to replace the suspect SSU as soon as possible to avoid major powerdowns in the event of another failure.
The replacement work is relatively straight forward, but the new spacesuit batteries are required. And the SSU swap-out must be done when the station is in Earth's shadow and the arrays are not generating power. The orientation of the station's orbit with respect to the sun will periodically ensure extended night passes in October.