Two Russian cosmonauts are preparing to venture outside of the International Space Station to continue setting up a giant robotic arm, despite recent threats from Roscosmos to withhold access to the handy machine.
The spacewalk is scheduled to take place Wednesday at 9:20 a.m. ET, and NASA is broadcasting the microgravity maintenance work live on NASA TV. Coverage will begin at 9 a.m. ET, and you can watch it via the feed below.
Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev are set to spend about six and a half hours outside the station’s space-facing Poisk module. While floating outside the protection of the station, the cosmonauts will install cameras on the robotic arm, relocate an external control panel, test a mechanism designed to grasp payloads as they arrive to the ISS, and remove launch restraints on the so-called “hands” of the robotic arm, according to NASA.
The 37-foot-long arm, which launched to space in July 2021, acts much like a human arm, complete with mechanical joints. But unlike a human arm, it has a hand at both ends and is designed to be able to anchor itself to the space station and walk back and forth by moving one hand over the other. The giant arm will mainly be used to transport payloads to inside the station and possibly even grab astronauts themselves, in order to relocate them to another side of the ISS during a spacewalk.
A European consortium led by Airbus Defense and Space in the Netherlands designed the arm for the European Space Agency (ESA). As tensions between Russia’s space agency and its European counterpart continue due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions imposed on Russia, the upcoming spacewalk was under threat. Roscosmos former head Dmitry Rogozin commanded the cosmonauts on board the ISS to discontinue their work on the European robotic arm, challenging ESA’s Director General Josef Aschbacher to “fly to space” and do it himself. Thankfully, Aschbacher didn’t have to do that, and the spacewalk is scheduled to take place after all following Rogozin’s dismissal from the Russian space agency.