Spacesuit Problem Forces EVA Halt

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Frank Morring, Jr. morring@aviationweek.com

Spacewalkers Dave Wolf and Chris Cassidy managed to replace only two of the oldest batteries on the International Space Station (ISS), instead of the four planned, after a malfunction with the carbon dioxide scrubber on Cassidy's spacesuit forced an early halt to the third extravehicular activity (EVA) of the STS-127 mission today.

Cassidy, a first-time space traveler making his first EVA, suffered no apparent ill effects when the lithium hydroxide CO2 scrubber in his suit allowed levels of the gas to rise to unacceptable levels. But the two spacewalkers and their handlers inside the station and in Houston brought the EVA to an abrupt halt so Cassidy could get back to the airlock and hook up to station life support.

They left everything at their work site at the far port end of the station truss except their camera, halting only to ensure their tool bags wouldn't block motion of the big solar alpha rotary joint that keeps the station solar arrays at that end of the truss properly aligned with the sun.

Cassidy made his way quickly back to the airlock, where he rested to minimize his body's production of carbon dioxide after controllers in Houston warned that the CO2 level in his suit was rising as he exerted himself.

"I'm just going to sit here and wait for Dave and enjoy the view," Cassidy radioed after reaching the airlock.

With the reduced activity, Cassidy's suit-CO2 level began to drop, and Houston okayed a nominal entry into the airlock. They began repressurizing the airlock at 4:31 p.m. EDT, for a total EVA time of five hours, 59 minutes.

After more than five-and-a-half hours of work, the EVA crew had pulled three of the six old batteries from the P6 truss element and replaced them with two fresh ones from the integrated cargo carrier at the end of the station robotic arm. They had planned to replace four of the old batteries, leaving the last two for the fourth EVA on Friday.

Planners in Houston were working to reschedule that spacewalk to catch up the work. There is also a fifth EVA scheduled on July 27 when more of the work can be done.

File photo: NASA

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