NASA has been conducting a prolonged campaign of upgrading batteries on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS), and the upgrade process is nearly complete. Recently two astronauts changed out critical solar array batteries marking the near completion of a battery revitalization project that will keep the space station powered through 2024. The two astronauts, Chris Cassidy and Bob Behnken, completed the spacewalk on Thursday.
The duo removed six old nickel-hydrogen batteries that were on the far starboard S6 truss of the space station. In their place, the pair installed a trio of lithium-ion batteries and placed a new high definition camera outside the lab. NASA points out that the lithium-ion batteries are twice as efficient as the old batteries they replace, meaning fewer batteries are needed.
The spacewalk to replace the aging batteries lasted six hours and wrapped up about 30 minutes earlier than expected. When returning to the airlock, the astronauts noticed something that could be a potential issue with the pins that hold the Quest airlock hatch in place. The duo took photographs for mission control to analyze at a later date.
Canadian astronaut Josh Kutryk was on hand at the Johnson Space Center and relayed news from the ground team to the space station that the plan was coming together in Houston to consider replacing the final battery packs. The battery replacement program has spanned the last three to half years with multiple spacewalk teams have removed 48 old batteries from the exterior of the space station, replacing them with 24 new ones.
The astronauts did struggle with sunlight that was shining directly in their face during the spacewalk, making the process more difficult. It’s unclear when the final replacement will be made, but the battery is waiting for installation on the ISS now.