• The International Space Station has been around for a very, very long time, and like any machine, it needs upgrades and fixes over time.
  • Many of the upgrades have to be made to the exterior of the spacecraft, meaning that astronauts that are already aboard the ISS have to embark on spacewalks in order to perform the work.
  • A spacewalk scheduled for today is currently ongoing, and a live stream of the work is available online.

The International Space Station is an absolute wonder. It’s been orbiting Earth for decades, and it’s been home to many astronauts over the years. The work that goes on in the ISS is vital to understanding mankind’s role in space, and developing new techniques and technologies that benefit both astronauts during spaceflight and humans back on Earth.

Because of its age, and the steady march of technology, the space station regularly gets upgrades to vital components. Some of those components are currently being worked on by astronauts on a spacewalk outside of the space station, and you can watch them live right here.

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The current spacewalk is actually a wrap-up of some previous work that was being done on the exterior of the space station. The long-term goal is to replace some aging and inefficient battery packs with new versions that hold more power and are more efficient overall. That might sound simple, but these battery packs are quite large, and the removal and installation process is definitely a challenge.

The battery work began many months ago, with multiple spacewalks scheduled to slowly replace the lithium-ion batteries with the new, more efficient models. As is often the case with spacewalks, some trips outside the space station resulted in more work being done than was planned, while others sometimes came up short, ultimately necessitating that future spacewalks make up for the lost time. In any case, the battery replacement work will ultimately help the space station stay up and running as long as NASA and other space agencies see the value in it.

You might be asking yourself why the space station needs batteries at all since it’s solar-powered. That’s a good question, and you’re right, the ISS does collect a ton of power from the Sun whenever it is in direct sunlight. However, because the space station circles the Earth many times every day, it often falls into the shadow of the planet, and without a constant stream of power from the Sun, the ISS would effectively shut down if it didn’t have batteries to store surplus power for use when the solar panels fall into shadow.

The spacewalk began at approximately 5:56 a.m. EST today, and it’s unclear exactly how long it will go. The crew has completed the battery work that was scheduled for the mission and are currently (at the time of this writing, anyway) working on installing a new camera outside of the space station.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech. Most recently, Mike served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today, Time.com, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.