Tools Get Loose During ISS Spacewalk

Article written: 27 Jul , 2010
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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Two Expedition 24 cosmonauts conducted a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station earlier today, outfitting the newest module for future dockings of Russian vehicles. Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Mikhail Kornienko set up the Kurs automated rendezvous on the Rassvet module, which was delivered on the last space shuttle mission to the ISS. Additionally, the pair of spacewalkers routed and mated Command and Data Handling cables on the Zvezda and Zarya modules. While they also purposefully jettisoned an old camera, two other objects got loose and floated away from the astronauts. The objects are being tracked to make sure they will not pose a threat to the station later.

One was tentatively identified as a cable clamp, left outside the station from a previous Russian spacewalk, and the other object was not conclusively identified.

This was the 147th spacewalk at the ISS for station assembly and maintenance. This was Kornienko’s first spacewalk and Yurchikhin’s fourth. Yurchikhin’s first three spacewalks occurred when he was commander of Expedition 15 in 2007.

The camera that was tossed away was replaced, and the new camera will provide better television views of the final approach and docking of future European Automated Transfer Vehicles carrying cargo to the station.

Another spacewalk will take place next week, on August 5, with US astronauts Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson getting the chance to go outside. They will install a power cable to the Unity module in preparation for the installation of the Permanent Multipurpose Module during the STS-133 mission in November. A Portable Data Grapple Fixture will be installed on the Zarya module that will extend the reach of Canadarm2, the station’s robotic arm, and increase a spacewalker’s access for assembly or maintenance work. They also will jettison multi-layer insulation removed for the grapple fixture installation and will mate power connectors to Zarya.

Source: NASA



13 Responses

  1. Member
    Aqua says

    I wonder how much that ‘tossed’ camera would have brought in a worldwide auction? Enough to rationalize its trip home?

  2. Dominion says

    UNACCEPTABLE! there is already more than enough space junk posing hazards to astronauts as it is. whatever tools they use during space walks should be tethered to them in some way to prevent this from happening. i will hope that the camera was “tossed away” in a manner that will cause it to reenter the atmosphere safely. if i lost tools at my place of work i would probably also lose my job. i understand that there is a certain amount of “human error” that goes along with anything that humans do but i expect more from these highly trained professionals. can you imagine if the Nascar pit crews tossed their tools out into pit road? my daughter loves space and wants to build rockets when she grows up. but at this rate there will be an absolute wall of junk that separates her from her dreams. the time is now people. we have to do something about this before it is too late if it isn’t already.

  3. Nephish777 says

    American’s are not the only ones to accidentally let go of tools. I agree that there is far too much debris in orbit around the earth. Seems like the tools and parts could be confined in a net or on tethers. Even a nut a couple of millimeters across (.25 inch) could cause a lot of damage if it hit at high speed.

    On a similar note, could someone come up with an “x-prise” for a satellites workable solution to remove dead from low earth orbit.

  4. Torbjorn Larsson OM says

    “UNACCEPTABLE!”

    That is wrong as claimed, apparently it was planned so deemed acceptable.

    Yes, the junk will eventually deorbit, the ISS is low enough in the atmosphere that it needs thrusters operating from time to time to avoid the same fate.

    It is other junk that is a problem, we have only one ISS but loads of lifters and orbiters on this and, worse, higher orbits. It is good to be indignant, since even if some progress is made on prevention it isn’t enough.

    YELL LOUDER, PLEASE! And write your congressman.

  5. Torbjorn Larsson OM says

    NEPHIS777, that is a good idea! X-Prize doesn’t seem to have one today, but you can make suggestions for future prizes at their site.

  6. spaceguy87 says

    Torbjorn beat me to some of my points.
    While spacewalkers should avoid dropping any objects that weren’t planned, this poses little threat to anyone but the ISS itself. Most of the space junk you hear about is at an altitude of 700 km and higher. At altitudes of such low air resistance that they won’t de-orbit for centuries. For contrast, ISS is at about 350 km altitude. Junk dropped will only be up there for a very short while.

    All planned jettisons from ISS are done in an appropriate retrograde direction such that they will lose altitude quickly and not pose a threat of recontact.

  7. Salacious says

    I adequately have commented and condemned this problem before; in the UT stories “Lost in Space: Tool Bag Overboard, Spider Missing” (19th November 2008) and “Satellite Tracker Captures Lost Toolbag on Video” (November 23rd 2008). My views haven’t change.

    Loss of anything from a spacecraft is unacceptable, and should be viewed as a criminal act subject to significant fines by the international community.

    I will probably take the death of person(s) in space before the reality of space junk will be taken seriously. Having some dead astronaut orbiting the Earth and unable to be recovered will be likely have the most profound all effect on space exploration.

    The issue is coming soon when it will be totally unsafe to enter low earth orbit (LEO) without the risk of catastrophic destruction in this region of space – and we will have only the carelessness and neglect of space launching nations to blame.

    I think the consortium for this ISS should be fined, say $100 million dollars, whose collected funds should be assigned to fixing this increasing problem.

    In the end, it will take international agreement to fix this issue.

    Note: However since my scalding words, at least the US has very recently has taken steps to seriously face the problem. This I can only say should be openly applauded.

    Note2: My avatar “Hon. Salacious B. Crumb” has been reduced to one word, so their in no confusion with the abbreviation HSBC – also being the abbreviation for the international financial group of the same bank named HSBC Holdings Ltd. (At least it will keep the whack-job Aodhhan becoming again confused!

  8. Aodhhan says

    NASA and DARPA are working on solutions. However, there are a lot of issues to deal with. Most of all financial and also how to do it without using something which could also be a weapon (no kidding).
    There is actually push back from countries because they are worried any item which can be sent into space to collect junk could also be used to compromise their satellite, and launching so called “weapons” into space is a no no!
    Also, believe it or not, but any debris is still considered property. So before you can just pluck a piece of Chinese satellite out of the sky, you need their permission. Imagine what kind of red tape B.S. this causes.

    Unfortunately, just because NASA and most western civilizations believe space junk is becoming a problem, not everyone else does. Shocker there, eh?
    At last count, there is about 10,000 objects (larger than a decimeter) in LEO. In reality, this means there is still a lot of space. Understand when you see these maps of debris around the Earth in LEO, the debris markers are blown up thousands of times… which makes it look crowded. In reality, the probability of something running into something else isn’t very high. So in a risk/cost analysis, many governments do not believe it is worth the cost.

    In the free world at least, you cannot say something is a crime without damage to person or property. You can’t send a person to jail for stabbing because they threw a knife. What law did he break? Unintentionally, perhaps negligently dropping a tool from Earth’s orbit? …I don’t think so. Can’t be worse than the Space Shuttle intentionally dropping a huge tank.

    Solacious (aka DumbCrumb), I understand you’re an insecure poser who believes he never makes a mistake, and God forbid you would ever make a public apology, but do us all a favor and shut up.
    At least I own up to my mistakes and apologize. Something a person can do when he has the intellect to realize it.

    …and before you go bashing and demeaning people for dropping a tool in orbit. Go ahead and bash yourself as well. Since every day you use satellites which still have rocket bodies circling over your head adding to the problem. You’re demand for better products, better technology, faster Internet, and use of cellular phones, gps tracking, television, computer systems, air travel, weather reports, credit transactions, on and on…makes you equally guilty. You can change your avatar, but you’re still a crumb for not realizing this.

  9. Salacious says

    Aodhhan

    Yes, I’m a demigod, and obviously perfect in everything I say and do.

    Hope one of these pieces of junk fall on your head, but based on your obvious lack of intellectual capacity, it would make little difference.

    Go screw yourself, A-hole!

  10. Dominion says

    Aodhhan – agreed that criminal charges are not quite needed and not likely to stick anyway. however, considering the ability of some lawyers to find just the right wording or loopholes, it should still be an option if things get worse. to use your own example, if a man throws a knife he can’t be charged with stabbing but wreckless endangerment might just stick.

    i love the idea of an x-prize for this. people really need to get involved. granted that there is still a lot of room up there but for how long? satellites have already collided back in 2009. how long until it happens again? yes we are safe today. perhaps tomorrow too. but one day soon this will bite us hard.

    do you wait until there are bugs on the counter before you clean your kitchen? of course it is easier and cheaper to clean a kitchen. that is why we need to focus on this now.

    my congressman knows my concern. probably tired of hearing it (or at least his secretary is). but i am just one voice. come on folks. let’s do this

    salacious – come on. anaconda didn’t get this much abuse from you. let it go

  11. Torbjorn Larsson OM says

    my congressman knows my concern.

    Ah. Good! [I wish *I* had one… :-(]

  12. Member
    Aqua says

    “…

    Below is an exert from a “Spaceflight Now” article titled “Spacewalkers complete overnight excursion”

    “Experts determined it the safest option for disposing of the camera was throwing it overboard instead of carrying it indoors for packing in the trash.

    “It will not be brought back inside the station due to concerns the insulation around the camera has degraded in the space environment and could result in fiberglass particles being shed inside the station resulting in a breathing hazard for the crew,” said Edelen.

    “The concern is that insulation could flake loose inside the cabin, resulting in fibers that the crew could breathe in. Once that determination was made, then it was clear jettisoning was the right thing to do.”

    oTay… that makes sense. Who’d want a broken camera anyway?

  13. Tony Trenton says

    This is a big business oppertunity

    Space trash collection

    Maybe the Mafia would be interested.

    It is a great way to launder ill gotten gaines

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