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Water leak delays historic 200th spacewalk

MIAMI: NASA discovered a water leak Friday at the International Space Station, delaying the start of the milestone 200th spacewalk at the global space lab.

The glitch affected equipment known as the servicing and cooling umbilical (SCU), which supplies power and oxygen to the spacesuits worn by veteran US astronaut Peggy Whitson and her rookie counterpart, Jack Fischer.

The problem involved “a small leak of water at the connection point of the service and cooling umbilical (SCU) as it was hooked up to Jack Fischer’s spacesuit in the equipment lock section of the Quest airlock,” said NASA commentator Rob Navias.

It was discovered as the astronauts were seated in the airlock inside the space station, before they ventured into the vacuum of space.

“This is not the suit itself. Fischer’s suit itself is perfectly fine. The crew is perfectly fine,” said Navias.

“This is the connection point of the component in the airlock itself that provides power, oxygen, cooling water and communications lines to the two crew members while they are in the process of biding their time, pre-breathing pure oxygen, in the airlock itself.”

According to NASA procedures, the spacewalk can go ahead with just one functioning SCU.

The rescheduled start time of the spacewalk was unclear, as French astronaut Thomas Pesquet took extra steps to stow the equipment and prepare for the use of just one SCU, following the orders of mission control in Houston.

The outing was initially set to begin around 7:00 am (1100 GMT).

Once the spacewalk begins, the astronauts will take turns using the SCU, and will alternate using battery power in their suits.

The astronauts’ key task during Friday’s spacewalk is to replace what is known as an express carrier avionic box.

The box weighs 200 pounds (91 kilograms) on Earth, and routes data and commands to experiments inside the space station, Navias said.

“It has been exhibiting some thermal issues of late, so it is being replaced,” explained Navias.

The first spacewalk ever conducted at the station was on December 7, 1998.

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