A new flaw has emerged with a US-made spacesuit, forcing Nasa to delay until tomorrow the next outing to repair the International Space Station, the space agency said.
The problem came up in a system that handles water condensation in veteran astronaut Rick Mastracchio's spacesuit after he re-entered the space station airlock following a spacewalk that lasted 51/2 hours, Nasa said.
It was not believed to be the same type of issue that caused a dangerous water leak in the helmet of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano in July. An investigation into that situation is ongoing.
Faced with unexpected repairs due to an equipment cooling breakdown at the orbiting lab on December 11, Nasa arranged makeshift snorkels inside the 35-year-old spacesuits and absorbent pads in the helmets for these spacewalks in case such a leak happened again.
"During repressurisation of the station's airlock following the spacewalk, a spacesuit configuration issue put the suit Mastracchio was wearing in question for the next excursion - specifically whether water entered into the suit's sublimator inside the airlock," the space agency said on Saturday.
"This issue is not related to the spacesuit water leak that was seen during a July spacewalk."
Now, astronauts are planning to work on resizing a spare spacesuit aboard the International Space Station for Mastracchio to wear on the next spacewalk to complete the replacement of the ammonia pump module.
The outing was initially set for today, but will now take place tomorrow. Nasa released the news late on Saturday, after the spacewalk by the two American astronauts went faster than planned and appeared to go off without a hitch.
Astronauts made fast work of their key task for the day, disconnecting the old pump. They were also able to take on the extra task of removing the pump.
The spacewalks were called for after a faulty valve forced a partial shutdown in the system that regulates equipment temperature. Engineers tried to fix the problem from the ground but decided after about a week that a replacement of the pump module was the best remedy.