On the 17th of August (Wednesday), a Russian spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) was halted after an astronaut sensed an electrical issue with his spacesuit.
Oleg Artemyev, Expedition 67 commander, was called back by Moscow Mission Control to the airlock after he informed them about continuous voltage fluctuations in battery power for his Orlan spacesuit.
Vladimir Solovyov, the flight director for the space station’s Russian segment and a former astronaut, connected to Artemyev via radio at the time of the spacewalk and said, “Drop everything and start going back immediately! Oleg, go back and connect to station power.”
At that moment, Artemyev, without a second thought, informed his fellow cosmonaut even if he was not at any immediate risk, in the unlikely event that his spacesuit’s power cut off completely, he would not be able to contact Denis Matveev, his fellow spacewalker. He would have also lost the ability to communicate with flight controllers on the ground as long as he didn’t plug back into the power supply on the International Space Station to charge his spacesuit.
Artemyev said that he copied and understood, and he started to move back towards the airlock at the point where Matveev and Artemyev started their spacewalk on the space-facing side of the Poisk mini-research module at 9:53 am EDT (1353 GMT).
As soon as Artemyev reentered the airlock area after successfully completing the spacewalk for two and half hours out of the 6.5 planned spacewalk hours, he suggested that they must include some solar panels on their spacesuit Orlans so that they would be able to recharge their suit’s battery power in case of any extravehicular activity.
Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev from Russia’s Space Corporation “Roscosmos” had been ordered to go outside the International Space Station to continue their work of outfitting a European robotic arm launched in July 2021 to the orbiting complex.
Matveev and Artemyev successfully set up two cameras on the European Robotic Arm (ERA) in its elbow areas just before their outing was curtailed. In addition to this, they also detached thermal insulation from the robotic arm and could not complete a launch of one of the two “hands” or end effectors at opposite ends of the arm.
Both astronauts also repositioned the arm’s external control panel from the previous operating area to another. They had also been tasked with testing a rigidizing mechanism on the arm that was intended to be used to facilitate the grasping of payloads. All these objectives will now be postponed for future use during a spacewalk.
Once the European Robotic Arm is fully configured, it will play an important role in moving payloads and equipment outside of the Russian segment of the International Space Station. The ERA, provided by the European Space Agency, is expected to be a part of the Japanese Kibo arm and the Canadian-built robotic arm, Canadarm2. Both these robotic arms already support operations, maintenance, and research activities in the external area of the orbiting complex.
Both astronauts were waiting for ERA to be set up for its stowed configuration. In the meantime, Matveev decided to join Artemyev back inside the airlock, which ultimately resulted in ending their excursion being called off. The spacewalk lasted 4 hours and 1 minute as it was completed at 1:54 pm EDT (1754 GMT).
This was the 7th recorded spacewalk for the year. Additionally, since 1998, it was their 252nd time supporting the upgrade, maintenance, and assembly of the International Space Station. For Artemyev, this is his 7th EVA as he recently spent 45 hours and 45 minutes working in the vacuum of space, and the 3rd for Matveev, he logged 18 hours and 20 minutes of spacewalk working.