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New panel to produce 20 percent more power

Hubble gets first of new solar wings

During Monday's spacewalk at the orbiting shuttle Columbia, astronaut John Grunsfeld attached a thermal covering to the Hubble Space Telescope after installing one of two new solar panels. This thermal covering will help keep the Hubble warm when its power is temporarily turned off later in the mission.  

Editor's note: The second of five spacewalks for crew members of the shuttle Columbia is scheduled to begin at about 1:30 a.m. EST Tuesday.

JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas (CNN) -- Astronauts John Grunsfeld and Rick Linnehan successfully installed a smaller, more efficient solar panel on the Hubble Space Telescope early Monday to improve its efficiency.

A second one is to be added in a spacewalk Tuesday.

The stronger solar panels, also known as arrays or wings, are intended to improve the power efficiency of the telescope. The panel installed Monday is two-thirds the size of the old one when fully extended, yet it should produce 20 percent more electrical power.

The previous panel, which was flimsy and produced vibration, had been attached during Hubble's first servicing mission in 1993.

A problem with a bolt initially made it difficult for Linnehan to attach the old solar array to Columbia's cargo bay for the return trip to Earth, but the problem was resolved.

One down, four to go

Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Columbia successfully capture the Hubble Space Telescope to begin a tuneup mission. CNN's Miles O'Brien reports (March 3)

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Monday's was the first of five spacewalks planned for the crew members of space shuttle Columbia.

NASA managers signaled the crew Saturday to press on with their Hubble repair mission despite a blockage in one of the spacecraft's two cooling systems that alarmed ground controllers shortly after Friday's takeoff.

Columbia's other cooling system was working fine. Only one system is needed to cool the shuttle's electronics. (Read about the mission management team's decision.)

Columbia is carrying $172 million in new equipment for Hubble, including solar wings, a power-control unit, a steering mechanism, a more advanced camera and a system to restart a disabled infrared camera.

The astronauts are to install the equipment over the 11-day mission, which includes plans for repairs not originally intended to take place in orbit -- the replacement of the power-control unit and repair of Hubble's infrared camera. (Read about the crew's "capture" of the four-story orbiting observatory.)

Columbia older than Hubble

The Hubble Space Telescope, a joint venture of NASA and the European Space Agency, was launched in 1990. Due to a structural defect, it suffered a serious case of blurred vision until visiting shuttle astronauts made repairs in 1993.

Hubble already has given scientists an impressive view of the universe. The orbiting telescope has produced images related to a comet breaking up near the sun, the ruins of a stellar explosion 10 billion light-years away and the cosmos' rate of expansion.

First launched in 1981, Columbia is NASA's oldest operational shuttle. It flew 26 missions before undergoing a $164 million overhaul following its last flight in November 1999.


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