updated 9/13/2006 5:40:23 AM ET 2006-09-13T09:40:23

For a second day in a row, astronauts began toiling like construction workers during a six-hour spacewalk, bringing to life a new 17½-ton addition to the international space station Wednesday.

Astronauts Dan Burbank and Steve MacLean of the Canadian Space Agency started the spacewalk at 5:05 a.m. EDT, focusing their attention and tools on a ferris-wheel-like rotary joint which will allow two solar arrays, once unfurled, to always face the sun as the space station circles Earth. The solar arrays will supply a quarter of the space lab’s power when it is completed by 2010.

“Steve and Dan, have a great time out there,” said Atlantis commander Brent Jett.

The work was expected to be arduous and repetitive. Burbank and MacLean needed to release and remove 16 locks and six restraints that kept the rotary joint in place during Saturday’s launch from the Kennedy Space Center. The astronauts had to remove more than a dozen insulation covers and scores of bolts wearing bulky spacesuit gloves.

“For the outside observer, it’s going to look boring since the guys aren’t going to be moving around a whole lot,” astronaut Joe Tanner, who conducted his own spacewalk Tuesday with astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, said before the mission. “What they’re doing is so extremely critical, but very repetitive. We will work hard at not getting lulled into boredom or complacency.”

'Taking care of business'
Both Burbank and MacLean were making their debuts as spacewalkers.

“I just don’t want to be real clumsy,” Burbank said before the mission. “The first thing I’m going to do is go slow and ease my way into it.”

To pump them up for the hard work ahead, Mission Control played “Taking’ Care of Business” for their wake-up song.

“We’ll be taking care of business getting the solar arrays prepared,” MacLean said in response.

The spacewalk was the second of three spacewalks to hook up the new $372 million addition to the space station during Atlantis’ 11-day mission.

Tanner and Piper worked for more than six hours Tuesday connecting 17 wires or tubes and tightening or loosening 167 bolts on the orbiting space lab. The only glitch was when Tanner was working with a 1½-inch bolt with an attached spring when the washer holding it in fell off. The bolt, spring and washer floated away. Officials did not believe the lost items would cause problems.

Tanner and Piper planned to return for a third spacewalk on Friday.

Engineers have determined that Atlantis’ heat shield is in such good shape — free from the type of the damage that led to Columbia’s disintegration — that it is clear for landing at the end of its scheduled mission next Wednesday.

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