Panel Tear, Defective Joint Causing Headaches
Saying they need more time to work out a plan to deal with not
one but two power issues at the International Space Station,
mission managers at NASA postponed plans for a fourth spacewalk
As ANN reported, that
spacewalk -- planned for Thursday -- was to address issues with a
malfunctioning joint on one of the solar wings on the starboard
side of the station. If that weren't a big enough problem, however,
NASA also discovered this week one of those panels has a
significant tear on it, reducing its power generating
The next spacewalk will be Friday at the earliest, reports The
Associated Press. The shuttle Discovery is scheduled to undock from
the ISS Monday... meaning NASA is under the gun to fit the
missions' five planned spacewalks in.
NASA may chose to extend the mission a second time; the space
agency already added an extra day to it earlier this week. And
there remains the possibility an unprecedented sixth spacewalk
would be added.
"I think we're kind of in the groove right now, so if the ground
decides that's the right thing to do and they ask us to do it,
we'll be ready to support it," shuttle commander Pamela Melroy
Between the defective
joint and the torn solar panel, the station currently cannot
generate enough power to support additional equipment, such as the
ESA Columbus science lab set for launch onboard Atlantis in
December. A delay to that mission would create a domino effect
throughout subsequent launches, adding
further pressure to the hard deadline for shuttle
retirement in 2010.
As of now, NASA has not been able to determine what caused the
solar wing to tear, despite analyzing several hundred photos of it.
Astronaut Daniel Tani said he also noticed a second, smaller tear
near the primary 2 1/2 foot rip.
"Until we know what we think the cause is, maybe until we get
some better pictures, I don't think we really have any solid leads
on how to fix it yet," space station flight director Heather Rarick
Despite the damage, the ripped panel is reportedly producing 97
percent of anticipated power, according to Florida Today. The tear
did not cut through any power transmission lines.