International Space Station Spreads its Wings

The International Space Station got a lot bigger today when it spread out its newly installed solar panel arrays. NASA mission controllers sent commands up instructing the station to open the first panel, and then the second, spanning a total of 73 metres (240 feet). The STS-115 astronauts will have one final spacewalk on Friday; Joe Tanner and Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper will spend 6.5 hours outside the station working on a variety of tasks. The Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to depart from the station on Sunday, and land on Wednesday.

The International Space Station continued to grow Thursday when the STS-115 crew unfurled a new set of solar arrays to a total length of 240 feet.

The arrays are attached to the P3/P4 integrated truss structure, which was installed on to the station Tuesday. In addition to the solar arrays, the new truss contains batteries and associated electronics. The P3/P4 will provide power, communication and data services to the station. The solar arrays will double the station’s capability to generate power from sunlight when they go online during a future shuttle mission.

The STS-115 crew conducted two spacewalks to outfit the 17.5-ton, 45-foot-long truss and to prepare the arrays for deployment. STS-115 spacewalkers will take one more orbital stroll to prepare the arrays’ radiator for deployment.

In addition to the construction work, the STS-115 astronauts and the Expedition 13 crew have transferred cargo between the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the station. Atlantis and the STS-115 crew are slated to leave the station Sunday.

STS-115 is the first construction mission to visit the station since late 2002. STS-116, slated to launch no earlier than December, will continue assembly efforts with the delivery of the P5 truss.

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Original Source: NASA News Release