ISS astronauts perform second spacewalk to install powerful solar arrays

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and NASA employee Shane Kimbrough made their second spacewalk in less than a week to install new solar arrays on the International Space Station.

The pair continued a project started on Wednesday, which was halted after a space suit and other issues prevented them from deploying the first of a series of high-tech solar panels.

NASA originally planned two spacewalks for this work; one for each solar panel. But managers planned a third due to previous problems.

The new solar wings are designed to roll out like a red carpet, unlike the station’s old wings, which unfolded like an accordion.

Sand and Kimbrough managed to secure the first solar wing last week, but had to delay electrical connections or deploy the panel to its full 19m length.

On Sunday, by pushing and pulling, the spacewalkers managed to unfold and align the solar panel so that the two halves were butt-to-butt, resembling a roll of paper towels. Their cry “Whoo!” was greeted with applause at Mission Control.

The two had to wait until they returned to the night side of Earth so that the station’s old solar panels would no longer absorb sunlight or else they could be electrocuted.

In anticipation of darkness, the camera and light assembly on Kimbrough’s helmet came loose, and Pesce secured it with wire ties as the minutes wore on. This time the last step – the actual unrolling – went off without a hitch.

The slow but steady expansion on Sunday took a total of 10 minutes, with the station’s cameras broadcasting live TV broadcasts. “Beautiful,” Pesce exclaimed.

The pair will return on Friday to complete work on the second panel, which was delivered by private firm SpaceX earlier this month.