CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Spacewalking astronauts released a ham radio satellite outside the International Space Station on Wednesday despite a missing antenna that will hamper operations.
Russian Sergei Volkov let go of the boxy 57-pound satellite with his gloved hands, a few hours after Mission Control put the operation on hold. But he and his spacewalking partner, Alexander Samokutyaev, ran out of time before they could accomplish the major task of moving a Russian cargo crane from one part of the space station to another.
Soon after the spacewalk began, the astronauts and flight controllers realized one of two antennas had somehow broken off the satellite. Experts on the ground have no idea how it may have broken or when, said NASA spacewalk commentator Josh Byerly.
After debating for three hours what to do about the satellite, Mission Control instructed Volkov to release it. Samokutyaev photographed the object as it left the space station at a rate of just over 3 feet per second.
The transmitting capability will not be affected by the loss of one antenna, but the receiving of signals from the ground will be degraded, Byerly said. It’s designed to operate for nine months.
The mini-satellite is a prototype for a series of educational satellites under development by Radio Amateur Satellite Corp., NASA and a Russian aerospace company.
It holds radio messages marking this year’s 50th anniversary of the launch of the first spaceman, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. It also has a beacon for tracking Morse code and cameras for transmitting Earth views, as well as a student experiment to measure atmospheric pressure.
A Russian cargo ship launched the satellite to the orbiting outpost in January.
Volkov and Samokutyaev also installed an experimental laser-based transmitting system, about the size of a barbecue pit. Also on their to-do list: retrieving an old space station antenna and experiment. The transfer of the cargo crane was moved to a future spacewalk; the next one isn’t until February.
Four other men are aboard the space station: two Americans, one Japanese and one other Russian.
Satellite contacts: http://www.arissat1.org/v3/