New batteries give a boost to space station

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough
NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough flashes a smile for a selfie during a spacewalk at the International Space Station. (NASA Photo)

The International Space Station got a power upgrade today when spacewalkers hooked three new lithium-ion batteries into the electrical system.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson spent about six and a half hours outside the orbital outpost to do the installation.

For the past several days, the station’s crew has been using the Dextre robotic arm system to shift old nickel-hydrogen batteries into storage and get the new batteries ready for installation. The lithium-ion battery packs arrived at the station last month aboard a robotic Japanese cargo ship.

Each battery pack is about as big as a coffee table, weighs 400 pounds and is designed to last at least 10 years. They’re made by Aerojet Rocketdyne, and provide 50 percent more energy storage capability than the packs they replace.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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