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Aging robot arm gets spacewalk surgery

06 October 2017

NASA astronauts Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hei are tasked with replacing the LEE with another spare one that's now attached to the outside of the space station. You can watch all the action in a livestream here, courtesy of NASA TV. One LEE typically stays attached to the ISS, anchoring the arm to the station; the other is extended out into space to grab objects. Today, it's routinely used to do inspections on the outside of the ISS, as well as grab and dock incoming cargo spacecraft.

The primary goal of the spacewalk is to replace latching end effector A, or LEE-A, one of two grappling mechanisms on the station's Canadian-built robot arm.

"The arm was created to last for the whole duration of the space station program, with maintenance", said Braithwaite.

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The astronauts will be working on a newly replaced robotic arm called "Canadarm2" and will be replacing cameras outside the station's U.S. Destiny laboratory. Coverage began at 6:30 a.m. EDT, but the spacewalk didn't commence until 8:05 a.m. The arm also can mount itself atop a mobile transporter that runs on rails along the front side of the station's solar power truss to move the arm to various work sites.

The two latching mechanisms, one on each end of the arm, have been used almost 400 times. Components of the LEEs were created to last 10 to 15 years, and it's been 16 years since they were installed.

After loosening some bolts and screws, the spacewalkers will stow the degraded LEE outside the space station and replace it with a spare LEE.

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Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik will be leading all three missions, which will focus on repairs to the robotic arm, Canadarm2. Then, they'll gather their tools and head back to the Quest airlock. Bresnik and Vande Hei will conduct the second spacewalk together. Joe Acaba arrived at the space station September 12 for his third mission to space.

In the near term, two more spacewalks are planned October 10 and 18 to lubricate the newly attached LEE-A fitting, to replace two cameras with degraded color and to carry out other routine maintenance.

This will be Randy Bresnik's third spacewalk and will mark Van Hei's debut. Vande Hei, EV-2, is wearing an unmarked suit and is using helmetcam 20.

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Aging robot arm gets spacewalk surgery