Spacewalking astronauts making repairs on International Space Station in October

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Three astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) will be taking the first of three October spacewalks today. You can watch all the action in a livestream here, courtesy of NASA TV.

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. Nowadays, it is used for routine inspections outside the ISS and to latch and dock incoming cargo spacecraft.

The primary goal of the spacewalk is to replace latching end effector A, or LEE-A, one of two grappling mechanisms on the station's Canadian-built robot arm. Canadarm flew on 90 missions between 1981 and 2011, helping with things like setting up the Hubble Telescope, retrieving a stranded communications satellite and building the space station.

"The second and third spacewalks will be devoted to lubricating the newly installed end effector and replacing cameras on the left side of the station's truss and the right side of the station's US Destiny laboratory", Nasa said. Coverage began at 6:30 a.m. EDT, but the spacewalk didn't commence until 8:05 a.m. 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. "Here at 16 years, for an item this complex, we're very pleased both LEEs lasted this long".

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The two latching mechanisms, one on each end of the arm, have been used almost 400 times.

During one or more spacewalks early next year, the arm's LEE-B grappler will be removed and replaced with a spare now mounted on an external storage platform.

The duo have been tasked to replace the arm. While this will be the first-ever spacewalk of the latter, it will mark the third one of Bresnik.

The next two spacewalks, on October 10 and October 18, will focus on lubricating the joints in the new LEE using a device called a ballscrew lubrication tool, or BLT. As extravehicular crewmember 1 (EV 1), Bresnik gets to wear the suit with red stripes on it, while Vande Hei (EV 2) will wear a plain white suit.

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