NASA has announced it will air series of spacewalks by two astronauts outside the International Space Station in order to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a cosmic ray detector, the agency said.
At least four spacewalks currently are planned before the end of this year, the first of which will be conducted Friday, Nov. 15. Dates for the other spacewalks are under review and will be scheduled in the near future.
Over the course of the spacewalks, Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Drew Morgan will replace a cooling system and fix a coolant leak on AMS, which was delivered to the station in May 2011. The upgraded cooling system will support AMS through the lifetime of the space station.
These spacewalks are considered the most complex of their kind since the Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions, which took place between 1993 and 2009. The AMS originally was designed for a three-year mission and, unlike Hubble, was not designed to be serviced once in space. More than 20 unique tools were designed for the intricate repair work, which will include the cutting and splicing of eight cooling tubes to be connected to the new system, and reconnection of a myriad of power and data cables. Astronauts have never cut and reconnected fluid lines during a spacewalk.
AMS — whose principal investigator is Nobel laureate physicist Samuel Ting — was constructed and tested, and is operated by an international team of 56 institutes from 16 countries organized under US Department of Energy Office of Science sponsorship.