Even the International Space Station needs its batteries changed every once in a while. This past Friday, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson took on the task, beginning the swapping-out process during a six-hour spacewalk.
Kimbrough and Whitson installed adapter plates on the truss and hooked up electrical cables as part of a complex robotics and spacewalk plan to shore up the station’s power supply for the future. It was the third spacewalk of Kimbrough’s career and the seventh for Whitson, who equaled the mark for most spacewalks by a woman previously set by NASA’s Suni Williams. Kimbrough will venture outside the station again on Jan. 13 with Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) to continue and complete the battery work.
The current batteries, nickel-hydrogen units that recharge in the sunlight, have been powering the ISS for 18 years. This year, they’ll be replaced by a lithium-ion design, which have a better storage capacity and are essentially just enormous versions of cell phone batteries, Whitson told NASA TV.
Kimbrough and Whitson installed adapter plates and electrical connections. In the process, Whitson tied the record for most spacewalks by a female astronaut—seven.