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NASA astronauts wrap up huge space station cabling job

Spacewalking astronauts needed three outings to run 233 metres of cable and two sets of antennas

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—Spacewalking astronauts successfully completed a three-day cable job outside the International Space Station on Sunday, routing several-hundred feet of power and data lines for new crew capsules commissioned by NASA.

It was the third spacewalk in just over a week for Americans Terry Virts and Butch Wilmore, and the quickest succession of spacewalks since NASA’s former shuttle days.

The advance work was needed for the manned spacecraft under development by Boeing and SpaceX. A pair of docking ports will fly up later this year, followed by the capsules themselves, with astronauts aboard, in 2017.

Once safely back inside, Virts reported a bit of water in his helmet again for the second time in as many spacewalks. He stressed it was “not a big deal” and said there was no need to hurry out of his suit.

Virts and Wilmore installed two sets of antennas Sunday, as well as 400 feet (122 metres) of cable for this new communication system. They unreeled 364 feet (111 metres) of cable on Feb. 21 and last Wednesday.

It was complicated, hand-intensive work, yet the astronauts managed to wrap up more than an hour early during a 5-hour spacewalk. Their three outings spanned 19 hours.

“You guys have done an outstanding job,” Mission Control radioed, “even for two shuttle pilots.”

As many as four more U.S. spacewalks will be conducted this year, beginning this summer, to make way for Boeing and SpaceX capsules.

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