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Tim Peake set for first spacewalk by British astronaut

By Paul Rincon
Science editor, BBC News website

image copyrightESA
image captionMr Peake was selected as a European Space Agency astronaut in 2009

Tim Peake is to carry out the first ever spacewalk by a British astronaut, Nasa has confirmed.

Mr Peake and Nasa astronaut Tim Kopra will venture outside the International Space Station (ISS) on 15 January to replace a failed voltage regulator.

Mr Peake launched on a Russian rocket on 15 December to begin a six-month stay on the orbiting outpost.

This will be the second spacewalk in under three weeks for Mr Kopra, who has flown into space once before, in 2009.

The two Tims will don their spacesuits and exit the US Quest airlock to replace an electrical box known as a Sequential Shunt Unit (SSU), which regulates voltage from the station's solar arrays.

media captionVideo diary: Underwater spacewalker

Its failure on 13 November last year compromised one of the station's eight power channels.

The unit is relatively easy to replace and can be removed by undoing one bolt. Once this task is complete, the spacewalkers will deploy cables in advance of new docking ports for US commercial crew vehicles and reinstall a valve that was removed for the relocation of the station's Leonardo module last year.

On Twitter, the British astronaut said he was "thrilled" to be assigned the spacewalk, adding: "Lots of work to do before Tim [Kopra] and I can open the hatch."

Mr Peake supported a spacewalk on 21 December last year, in which Mr Kopra and station commander Scott Kelly moved a stalled component known as the "mobile transporter" on the outside of the ISS.

The Briton stayed inside the ISS, helping the Americans don their spacesuits and monitoring their progress for mission control.

This time, he will be the one to get inside the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) - the spacesuit used by US and European astronauts on the station.

The spacewalk is scheduled to start at 12:55 GMT and last for six-and-a-half hours.

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Mr Peake and Mr Kopra were both crew members on the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) Soyuz flight that arrived at the ISS on 15 December. As such, they have trained closely with each other.

Mr Peake was selected by the European Space Agency in 2009, and is the first British astronaut to fly into space since Helen Sharman spent a week on the Soviet space station Mir in May 1991. Her flight was privately funded, under a venture known as Project Juno.

image copyrightPAUL RINCON
image captionTim Peake launched to the ISS on 15 December, aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket
image copyrightNASA
image captionThis will be the third spacewalk for American astronaut Timothy Kopra

The UK government has traditionally been opposed to human spaceflight, which has led other Britons to fly into space with Nasa - wearing the American, rather than UK flag on their uniforms.

Michael Foale, who hails from Louth in Lincolnshire, became the first British-born person to carry out a spacewalk when he stepped outside the shuttle Discovery on 9 February 1995.

Mr Foale flew on six Nasa shuttle missions, with extended stays on both Mir and the ISS. He has dual citizenship on account of his American-born mother.

Piers Sellers, who was born in Crowborough, flew on three space shuttle missions between 2002 and 2010. Over the course of six spacewalks, he accumulated 41 hours and 10 minutes of "extra-vehicular activity" time - the most of any UK-born astronaut.

Another UK-born Nasa astronaut, Nicholas Patrick, travelled into orbit on the Discovery shuttle in 2006 and the Endeavour shuttle in 2010.

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Related Topics

  • Space exploration
  • Tim Peake

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