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"Black Box"


Cosmonauts conduct a spacewalk

On May 29, 2019, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko (from the Soyuz MS-11 crew) and Aleksei Ovchinin (from the Soyuz MS-12 crew) conducted a six-hour one-minute spacewalk (Extra-Vehicular Activity, EVA) on the exterior of the Russian Segment of the International Space Station, ISS. The opening of the EVA hatch took place at 18:42 Moscow Time (11:42 a.m. EDT), marking the start of what was scheduled to be a six-hour-long excursion. During the spacewalk, US astronaut Christina Koch was in charge of airlock operations on the interior side of the station.

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A photo released by Roskosmos on May 28, 2019, shows Oleg Kononenko (left) and Aleksei Ovchinin inside the Poisk module preparing for the 46th Russian spacewalk aboard the ISS.

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Spacewalk VKD-46

The planned spacewalk, known as VKD-46, aboard the Russian Segment, was dedicated to the 85th birthday of the Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov, who pioneered spacewalking operations on March 18, 1965, during the mission of the Voskhod-2 spacecraft. Leonov was born on May 30, 1934.

To mark the anniversary, Kononenko emblazoned the life-support backpack of his Orlan-MKS EVA suit with a sign that reads "Leonov (is) No. 1" and Ovchinin put "Happy Birthday Aleksei Arkhipovich" message on the back of his suit (Arkhipovich is Leonov's patronymic).

The two cosmonauts were scheduled to begin the spacewalk with the opening of the hatch aboard the SO1 Pirs Docking Compartment around 18:40 Moscow Time (11:40 a.m. EDT) on May 29, 2019, and work outside for around six hours. The closure of the hatch was expected approximately at 00:57 Moscow Time on May 30 (5:57 p.m. EDT on May 29).

According to Roskosmos, the spacewalk includes the following key tasks:

  • The installation of a transfer railing from the Poisk Mini-Research Module, MIM-2, to the Zarya Control Module, FGB, in order to form the shortest transfer route between the two locations for future spacewalkers;
  • The removal of an adapter with sensor mockups from railing No. 6005 on the MIM-2 module. The experiment supported an ongoing effort to extend the flight duration of the Soyuz MS spacecraft to up to 370 days, which requires to certify the TP228 thermometers (on the Soyuz) for no less than 13,320 hours of guaranteed operation;
  • The removal of the Test exposure experiments No. 15 and 16 on the MIM-2 module to conduct chemical, toxicological and microbiological analysis of the samples on the exterior of the Russian ISS Segment;
  • Cleaning the external glass surface on the window of the second EVA hatch, VL2, on the Poisk module, including chemical, toxicological and microbiological analysis of the surface formed by the cleaning solution;
  • The removal of Panels No. 1 and 2 from the Vynoslivost (endurance) experiment, which tested aerospace materials exposed to space environment under loads and without;
  • Changing the orientation of the pressure control and contamination deposit instrument on the Poisk module;
  • The removal of a decontamination towel bundle (apparently left outside by cosmonaut Anatoly Lonchakov nearly a decade ago) from Railing 2312 SM to conduct chemical, toxicological and microbiological analysis of the blanket and the condition of its material after exposure to the space environment;
  • Taking samples in the area of the SMV-15 and 39 valves in the course of the Test experiment, for chemical, toxicological and microbiological analysis;
  • Disconnecting cables and removing the PVK-1/SkKD-1 and PVK-2/ShKD-2 measurement units from the Obstanovka (situation) experiment (originally launched in 2013 aboard the Progress M-18M cargo ship) and discarding them into space. (Each of two PVK assemblies, which stands for the Plasma Wave Complex, consists of KVD instrument (Complex of Wave Diagnostics) and ShKD (Boom with Sensor Complex).

Spacewalk successfully completed


NASA confirmed that the VKD-46 spacewalk had began with the opening of the hatch aboard SO1 Pirs Docking Compartment at 11:42 a.m. Eastern Time on May 29, 2019. Ovchinin exited first and Kononeko followed him several minutes later. In the first task, cosmonauts brought out a portrait of Aleksei Leonov on the exterior. They then packed a decontamination towel, which was exposed to space for several months, into a bag, even though that task was originally planned to be performed later in the spacewalk.

At around 12:18 p.m. EDT, the cosmonauts paid tribute to Leonov, displaying his portrait.

Next, the cosmonauts worked on installing the railing from the Poisk Mini-Research Module, MIM-2, to the Zarya Control Module, FGB, -- the procedure which run into problems during the August 2017 spacewalk. First, it required the cosmonauts to transfer to Poisk using the Strela boom. Fortunately, this time, the work was mostly wrapped up by around 1:10 p.m. EDT, NASA said, less than an hour and a half into the spacewalk.

Next, the cosmonauts worked on the removal of the TP228 thermometer sensors on the Poisk module. They then switched to window-cleaining operations around 1:43 p.m. EDT, or around two hours into the spacewalk. After the operation, the cosmonauts joked that it was cleaner than when it was made.

Next, the cosmonauts had to work on the tasks of the Vynoslivost experiment, which was installed back in February 2012. They removed two panels from the Vynoslivost experiment on the Poisk module.

The cosmonauts also successfully removed a pair of cassettes of the Test experiment and released into space the hardware from the Obstanovka experiment. At least four free-flying objects associated with the operation were registered by ground radar.

According to NASA, the cosmonauts reentered the Pirs module at 5:43 p.m. Eastern Time.

In total, the spacewalk lasted six hours and one minute and Roskosmos declared all the tasks of the spacewak successfully completed.

VKD-46 spacewalk by the numbers (according to NASA):

  • Spacewalk duration: 6 hours, 1 minute;
  • 217th spacewalk on the ISS;
  • 4th spacewalk in 2019 and during the 59th long-duration expedition aboard the ISS;
  • 5th spacewalk for Oleg Kononenko, who logged a total of 32 hours, 13 minutes of spacewalking time;
  • 1st spacewalk for Aleksei Ovchinin.


To be continued


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This page is maintained by Anatoly Zak; Last update: November 24, 2019

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last update: May 28, 2019

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Aleksei Ovchinin (foreground) and Oleg Kononenko prepare for a spacewalk. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA


Discarded hardware from the Obstanovka experiment is floating away during the VKD-46 spacewalk. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA


A spacewalker as seen from the station. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA