Space Station cosmonauts conduct 6.5 hour spacewalk

An artist's impression of the spacewalk Photo: NASA

Two Russian cosmonauts are conducting a 6.5-hour spacewalk in order to carry out maintenance work to the outside of the International Space Station.

The spacewalk started at about 4:40pm after a delay and a live video of the spacewalk can by seen here until about 11pm.

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#ISS #Exp32 #spacewalk began at 11:37a ET. Russian cosmonauts will work for ~6.5 hrs. Watch on NASA TV: http://t.co/m7wHG834

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#ISS #Exp32 #spacewalk delayed b/c suspected pressure leak in  hatches. Crew not in danger. Watch live at http://t.co/m7wHG834

The purpose of the maintenance work is to move a hand-operated cargo crane from the Pirs docking compartment to the Zarya module in preparation for a new Russian laboratory module.

This video explains the procedures the cosmonauts will perform:

Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Yuri Malenchenko will also install a set of debris shields and "launch" a small spherical satellite as part of a Russian science experiment.

If time permits, they will also retrieve two science experiments that expose various materials to the conditions of open Space, and install some support struts on a ladder.

Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Yuri Malenchenko Credit: NASA

Both cosmonauts have plenty of experience having completed 12 previous spacewalks between them.

Their preparations for the spacewalk began about two weeks ago and included extensive testing of their equipment and space suits, and health checks.

They will be wearing Russian-made Orlan space suits for the mission.

In a video released by NASA, the two cosmonauts can be seen making final alterations to their space suits.

Today's mission is being run from the Mission Control Centre at Korolyov just outside the Russian capital Moscow.

It is also being monitored from NASA's ISS flight control room in Houston, Texas.It is the 135th spacewalk to be conducted from the ISS.