NASA astronauts Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hei are tasked with replacing the LEE with another spare one that's now attached to the outside of the space station.
Thursday's spacewalk was the first of three scheduled spacewalks this month aimed at repairing and maintaining various pieces of equipment outside the ISS, and was the 203rd spacewalk in the history of the space station.
As per the space agency, Bresnik and Vande Hei will walk up to the ISS in order to replace one of the two Latching End Effectors (LEE) on the station's robotic arm Canadarm2. Described by NASA as an "agile worm" due to its 540 degree rotation, the Canadian-built arm is an very big improvement over the original Canadarm, which flew on various Space Shuttles.
Officially called the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), Canadarm2 is part of the Mobile Servicing System (MSS), and it is one of the most crucial tools on the ISS.
The Canadian-built arm has been in orbit for 16 years.
The 18m arm was instrumental in assembling the space station and is used to reach out and grab approaching cargo ships.
The Canadarm 2 measures 57.7 feet long, weighs almost 4,000 pounds, has seven joints and, in the weightless environment of low-Earth orbit, can move large spacecraft and modules from one point to another.
All the three spacewalks of October are slated to begin at 8:05 am EDT (8:05 pm SST), but it is possible to start earlier if the astronauts are moving ahead of schedule. Initially, NASA planned to fix the LEE which seemed most degraded, but the other one stopped working, which moved it to the top of the priority list.
But that doesn't mean it doesn't experience wear and tear.
The two latching mechanisms, one on each end of the arm, have been used almost 400 times.
The second and third spacewalks will concentrate on the lubrication of the LEE and the installation of a pair of external cameras. A spare LEE is located along the side of the station's truss.
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