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Russian spacewalkers reinstall cameras — but there's a snag

by Marcia Dunn /  / Updated 
Image: Spacewalkers
Russian spacewalkers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy work outside the International Space Station.NASA TV

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Two Russian space station astronauts took a spacewalk Monday to complete a camera job left undone last month, but ran into new trouble.

Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy quickly got one of two commercially provided cameras installed outside the International Space Station, a task requiring multiple power connections. Everything checked out well with this high-definition camera, unlike the post-Christmas spacewalk where no data emanated from the cameras.

But the second, medium-resolution camera did not provide good data to ground controllers after its installation.

Ryazanskiy redid the electrical connections, with no luck. He spotted no damage.

"I put everything in place as it used to be, maybe even better," Ryazanskiy radioed. "I think it's much better."

But still, the data link was flawed.

"Sergey, don't overdo it there," Russian Mission Control said, warning him not to damage the connectors. The spacewalk ended with the problem unresolved, six hours and eight minutes after it began.

Second troubled outing
The astronauts had hooked up the Earth-observing cameras during a spacewalk right after Christmas. But ground controllers received no data from the cameras, and the spacewalkers had to haul everything back in.

The problem was traced to indoor cabling — and was thought to be fixed.

Images from these new cameras are to be distributed by the Canadian company that owns them, UrtheCast (pronounced EARTH-cast) Corp. The cameras were launched to the space station last November in a deal between the Vancouver-based company and the Russian Space Agency.

UrtheCast plans to post near-real-time video on its website and sell images. The company envisions customers wanting video feeds for environmental, agricultural and humanitarian purposes.

More troubleshooting
UrtheCast and the Russian Space Agency will continue to troubleshoot the problem with the medium-resolution camera from inside the space station. The company expects that it will take three months to calibrate the cameras, and that the system should be operational by summer.

Because of all the camera data trouble during the Dec. 27 spacewalk, which dragged on for eight hours, Kotov and Ryazanskiy had to put off other chores. Those tasks were completed Monday.

The four other space station astronauts — two Americans, one Japanese and another Russian — kept tabs on the spacewalk from inside.

Russian flight controllers outside Moscow directed Monday's 260-mile-high (420-mile-high) operation.

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