Spacewalk cancelled due to ‘misunderstanding’ of orbiter debris

The first mission since 2017 to remove and replace cameras and gyroscopes in the International Space Station will be delayed a week.

The seven astronauts set to depart the space station on Friday are set to be delayed just a week from their planned departure until Sunday, which gave NASA time to conduct an extra spacewalk to move bolts from the new camera platform to the outside of the station.

The original mission was to be the first spacewalk since January 2018 and the first truss maintenance in nearly three years. But technical issues and a buildup of space debris on the outside the orbiting lab have forced the mission to be pushed back a week.

“An additional two spacesuits, a longer outside spacewalk, as well as additional robotics training were all factors that led to the decision to wait and move the spacewalk day from Friday to Sunday,” said Earl Maize, a spokesman for NASA.

The new camera platform, which was pre-wired and will allow astronauts to take a picture of the surface of the station with a high-definition camera, has been a key part of the new exterior camera system that will allow others to see features below the space station. Since the International Space Station was installed in 1998, the platform has been in a trailer, but the boom will not be able to be retracted until a new set of manipulator arms are delivered to the station next year.

Such platforms are also used for routine maintenance, like taking a picture of a cable that has come loose, switching out a camera or conducting a spacewalk that takes place inside the station.

The spacesuits have been moved to one side of the platform to allow the launch of the new front legs and the actuators for the top three legs. The extra day gives the team of spacewalkers, as well as those responsible for ground systems that control the robots, time to rehearse for the new areas and to acclimate their equipment. The astronauts will have until 11:30pm on Friday to get ready.

However, Maize said there are no other delays and everything is “in a great state”. The crew will be leaving the station at the same time and have to return safely to Earth by 19 January.

“Space is a difficult, unpredictable place to fly and that’s why we are all so excited about the team at NASA who is planning and executing this ambitious mission,” Maize said.

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