Wearing bulky spacesuits, two Russian cosmonauts used the International Space Station’s Poisk docking compartment as an airlock for the first time Wednesday in a spacewalk to begin preparing the nearly identical Pirs module for removal next year. A new laboratory module will be parked in its place later.

Expedition 64 commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov began the year’s eighth spacewalk at 10:12 a.m. EST. The excursion, the first for both cosmonauts, comes just two days after arrival of four astronauts aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon commercial ferry ship.

For identification, Ryzhikov, call sign EV-1, is wearing a spacesuit with red stripes and using helmet camera 20 while Kud-Sverchkov, EV-2, is using a suit with blue stripes and helmetcam 18.


How to watch the spacewalk today

  • What: Two Russian cosmonauts perform a spacewalk outside the International Space Station
  • Date: Wednesday, November 18, 2020
  • Time: It is expected to start at 9:30 a.m. ET and last six hours. 
  • Online Stream: Live in the player above and on your mobile or streaming device 

For identification, Ryzhikov, call sign EV-1, will be wearing a spacesuit with red stripes and using helmet camera 20 while Kud-Sverchkov, EV-2, will use a suit with blue stripes and helmetcam 18.

Nearly identical to Pirs, Poisk was launched almost exactly 11 years ago, on Nov. 10, 2009, and attached to the Zvezda module’s upper port two days later. It has been used as a docking port for unpiloted Progress cargo carriers and Soyuz crew ferry ships many times but never as an airlock.

111820-eva3.jpg Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov move along the top of the Russian Zarya module, just to the left of the Poisk airlock compartment (extending upward) carrying a replacement pump module. The spacewalk Nov. 18, 2020 is the first ever carried out from Poisk as the Russians prepare to remove and discard the nearly identical Pirs module on the opposite side of the station to make way for a new laboratory.  NASA

Before venturing outside, the cosmonauts spent about an hour making sure Poisk’s never-before-used side hatch can be safely opened and tightly shut with an airtight seal and that the hatch leading into the main body of the station is leak free when the compartment is at or near vacuum.

Wearing their Orlan spacesuits, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov partially depressurize Poisk for an initial round of leak checks. NASA crewmate Kate Rubins carried out similar tests from inside the Russian segment of the station.

The cosmonauts then took Poisk to vacuum, opened the side spacewalk hatch for the first time in the module’s history and inspected its seals for any signs of foreign object debris or damage. Spare sealing material is available if needed, but the inspection found no signs of any trouble.

They then closed the hatch and run additional leak checks before re-opening it and floating outside at just after 11 a.m. to begin the 232nd spacewalk devoted to station assembly and maintenance, the eighth station EVA so far this year.

The first item on the agenda was to replace a fluid flow regulator on the Russian Zarya module, the station’s first component, launched 20 years ago Nov. 20.

The cosmonauts then planned to retrieve a materials science space exposure pallet from the Pirs module and disconnect a telemetry cable. The cable will be reconnected to Poisk, beginning the process of ending the use of Pirs as an airlock.

After cleaning a window on the Zvezda module, the spacewalkers planned to reposition a rocket plume impingement detector and retrieve an experiment tray that helps engineers assess micrometeoroid impacts. Their final task is to photograph the exterior of the Russian segment.

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