NASA delays second spacewalk by space station astronauts after failed launch

A second spacewalk by astronaut Kate Rubins will not take place this weekend due to the delayed launch of a backup to the Russian segment of the International Space Station, NASA announced Thursday.

NASA’s six-man crew had planned to conduct the spacewalk from the outside of the International Space Station Saturday, but it was pushed back because of a debris alert from the first spacewalk after a piece of orbital debris damaged a spare Russian docking port. The repairs were not completed before launch of the replacement docking port.

The warning from the Russian space agency Roscosmos came Thursday as Roscosmos completed the actual work necessary to attach the upgraded docking port to the Russian segment of the space station to be used during the second spacewalk, NASA officials said.

“The safety alert means that the robotic arm will not be attached to the new docking port for this activity,” NASA officials said in a statement. “This will delay the start of the second spacewalk. The mission team will work with NASA Mission Control to confirm a target spacewalk date when flight operations return to normal.”

In their first spacewalk Monday, Rubins, NASA’s Earth science research chief, and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, performed a robotics spacewalk to remove a piece of debris that broke through a cloth that was covering a segment of the Russian segment of the space station. NASA has maintained a few inches of shielding across the entire structure to protect against pieces of space debris reaching the space station.

This is the first time that a piece of debris has drifted into space and broken through the blanket this way, said NASA spokesman Josh Byerly, in a previous press conference with reporters.

The spacewalk repairs were not completed before launch of the replacement docking port. The second spacewalk could begin as early as Monday, and if work to install the new docking port and replace solar panels along the space station continues Friday, the spacewalk may be the sixth.

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