CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – The two Russian astronauts on the International Space Station went on a spacewalk on Wednesday to prepare for the arrival of a long-delayed lab for next year.
Commander Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov – named Sergei 1 and Sergei 2 by air traffic controllers – left four Americans and a Japanese man inside. The space station’s population grew to seven late Monday with the arrival of the SpaceX capsule, making the company’s second astronaut flight.
Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov, during their first spacewalk, spent nearly two hours checking for additional leaks before coming out of the airlock. The compartment has been on the space station since 2009, but is being used for the first time by space travelers.
The old Russian space division will be removed and relocated next year to make room for the Nauka Russian research laboratory. To deal with all this, several space exits from Russia will be needed. The plan requires attaching a cargo ship to the old Pirs module to direct it to a fire entrance.
The new 22-ton laboratory – 43 feet long – is so large that it will be launched from Kazakhstan with a powerful Proton missile. Once in orbital position, it will double as an airlock and port.
The launch of the science lab – almost a decade late due to lengthy renovations – is set for early next year.
Rizhikov and Kud-Sverchkov arrived with an American last month on a Soyuz capsule. Like the newly arrived SpaceX crew, the Russian-launched astronauts will remain on board until spring.