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NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson helps Thomas Pesquet (left) and Shane Kimbrough (right) suit up for a spacewalk. (NASA Photo)

Two astronauts made quick work of a battery upgrade today during the International Space Station’s second spacewalk in a week.

NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet installed three new adapter plates and hooked up three new lithium-ion batteries during an outing that lasted nearly six hours.

They finished up their primary tasks in less than three hours, leaving plenty of time for “get-ahead” maintenance tasks.

Today’s operation went as smoothly as last Friday’s spacewalk to hook up the first three lithium-ion batteries. The coffee-table-sized modules replace a set of heavier, less efficient nickel-hydrogen batteries.

The space station’s robotic arm provided an assist for moving the new batteries into position, and placing the old batteries on a platform attached to Japan’s HTV robotic cargo ship. The Japanese craft, and the old batteries, will be set loose to burn up during atmospheric re-entry next month.

Still more batteries are due to be replaced over the next couple of years. The operation is aimed at improving the performance of the system that stores up the power generated by the space station’s giant solar wings.

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