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Spacewalkers face workaday glitches

June 14, 2007|John Johnson Jr. | Times Staff Writer

Two astronauts spent nearly seven hours outside the International Space Station on Wednesday struggling with problems familiar to any driveway tinkerer: bolts that wouldn't give and crossed wiring.

In the end, spacewalkers Steve Swanson and Pat Forrester were able to partially retract an old set of solar panels and prepare a 10-foot, wheel-like rotary joint that will allow a new set, brought by the shuttle Atlantis, to track the sun.

The astronauts moved outside for the second spacewalk of Atlantis' 13-day mission at 11:28 a.m. PDT.

Their main task was to prepare the new solar arrays for activation on the starboard side of the station.

To do that, they first needed to retract an old set of solar panels that will be reinstalled elsewhere. They got partway through that task, which will be finished today.

They then moved on to install a set of mechanical assemblies on the new solar arrays.

A problem arose when they found that the wiring was reversed on two of the assemblies.

Controllers were able to activate one of the assemblies remotely, but not the other. As a result, ground controllers decided not to fully remove the restraining bolts that held the rotary joint in place during the trip to space.

Completion of the job will be left to a future spacewalk.

A third spacewalk is scheduled Friday to repair a tear in a thermal blanket covering a maneuvering engine on Atlantis. Unlike the underside of the shuttle, which is covered with stiff, heat-resistant tiles, areas that receive less heating during launch and reentry are covered with thick, stitched blankets.

One of the blankets tore loose during the launch last week, exposing a 4-by-6-inch section of the hull.

Mission managers decided earlier in the week to repair the tear. On Wednesday they decided to staple the blanket back together and attach it to nearby tiles.


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