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Spacesuit flaw postpones station repairs to Dec 24


The International Space Station. A NASA photo.

WASHINGTON (AFP): A new flaw has emerged in a US-made spacesuit, forcing NASA to delay until Christmas Eve the next outing to repair the International Space Station, the space agency has said.

The problem came up in the cooling unit of veteran astronaut Rick Mastracchio's spacesuit after he re-entered the space station airlock following a spacewalk that lasted 5.5 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 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 in a statement.

"This issue is not related to the spacesuit water leak that was seen during a July spacewalk."

A spokesman confirmed to AFP that the sublimator is the space suit's cooling unit.

Rather than allow Mastracchio, 53, to wear that suit again, astronauts are planning to work on resizing a spare spacesuit aboard the ISS for him on his next spacewalk to complete the ammonia pump module replacement.

The outing was initially set for Monday, but will now take place Tuesday, beginning at 7:10 am (1740 IST).

NASA released the news late on Sunday, after the spacewalk by the two American astronauts went faster than planned and appeared to go off without a hitch.

No live footage was broadcast, however, of the time astronauts spent inside the airlock after re-entering the space station following the spacewalk.

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, which had been scheduled for Tuesday.

NASA mission control in Houston checked in with them frequently to see if they were experiencing any wetness in their helmets, and each time the spacewalkers reported no problems.

"Both Mastracchio and (Mike) Hopkins reported dry conditions repeatedly throughout Saturday's activities and the two were never in danger," NASA said in a statement.

Tags:

Spacesuit  Flaw  NASA  Repairs  

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