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ISS expands parking capacity

Spacewalk preps installation of new berths

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International Space Station crew members Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Volkov yesterday carried out a five-hour, 54-minute spacewalk (see pic) to install a docking target on the station's Zvezda service module as part of a programme to expand the station's parking capacity.

Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko during Tuesday's spacewalk. Pic: NASA TVThis expansion is in anticipation of augmenting the ISS's crew by another three members as early as next May. Thereafter, two Soyuz capsules will have to be available at all times should the half dozen astronauts have to make an emergency escape.

The first coupling to the new docking target is slated for August next year, when Russia will dispatch a small "combination docking compartment/research laboratory" to the station atop an unmanned Progress rocket, Reuters explains. This will increase the total number of parking spots available to Russian and unmanned European Automated Transfer Vehicles, aka "space trucks", to four.

Kononenko and Volkov have had a busy time of late on the EVA front, and last week removed an explosive bolt from the currently-parked Soyuz TMA-12. Russian engineers suspect that faulty pyro fittings may have been responsible for two ballistic re-entries into Earth's atmosphere, and will examine the retrieved bolt on its return to Earth in a suitably blast-proof container. ®

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