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May 26, 2018

Two US spacewalkers start work on robotic arm repair

Two US spacewalkers start work on robotic arm repair
'Mark Vande Hei(L) and Scott Tingle are captured in a NASA TV video grab as they step out on a spacewalk to repair the robotic arm at the International Space Station' - By: NASA TV/AFP Handout

Two US astronauts floated outside the International Space Station on Tuesday to start a new round of repairs on the orbiting outpost's aging robotic arm, NASA said.

The spacewalk began at 6:49 am (1149 GMT) when NASA flight engineers Mark Vande Hei and Scott Tingle switched their spacesuits to internal battery power, then made their way outside the airlock and into the vacuum of space.

The goal of the six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk is to replace a spare latching end on the 57-foot (17-meter) Canadian-made robotic arm, called Canadarm2.

The arm is used to grasp incoming cargo ships and to move items around outside the space lab.

The station's robotic arm "has experienced some degradation of its snaring cables," NASA said in a statement.

The arm has been a key piece of equipment at the orbiting outpost for 17 years, but in August it lost its ability to grip effectively.

In October 2017, NASA astronauts completed three spacewalks to repair the robotic arm and replace cameras necessary to get a good view of the approaching cargo ships.

Tuesday's outing was the first career spacewalk for Tingle, and the third for Vande Hei.

Another spacewalk is planned for January 29, including Vande Hei and flight engineer Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), to continue the repair work.

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