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Space station to get its wings today

Astronauts aboard the Discovery will unfurl new solar array wings today for the International Space Station (ISS), a task that has NASA managers holding their breath.

That’s because the wings’ panels, which will provide additional electricity to run science experiments and daily operations on the ISS, could get stuck together, according to the Associated Press.

To prevent that from happening, the wings will be  rolled out in stages via remote control; as the sun “bakes” the panels, their potential “stiction” should decline, NASA  says in its update today. One array was to deploy to 49 percent at 10:48 a.m. EDT, “baking” for 45 minutes before being fully deployed; the other will deploy to 49 percent at 12:28 p.m., and extended the rest of the way 45 minutes later.

Astronauts completed the first of three planned spacewalks yesterday when they installed the $300 million backbone for the wings, which will provide a quarter of the ISS’s power. Discovery launched Sunday for its 13-day mission to upgrade and expand the capacity of the ISS from three to six crew members, delivering – in addition to the solar arrays – a new urine-to-water recycling system.

View of International Space Station as Discovery approaches for docking, March 17, 2009/NASA

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