Oct. 15 (UPI) -- NASA officials on Tuesday decided to postpone a series of spacewalks scheduled for this week after a hardware component failed over the weekend.
Plans to remove old batters and install newer, better ones have been delayed. Instead, NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will make history Thursday or Friday when they participate in the first all-female spacewalk.
The duo were originally scheduled to make history on Oct. 21. They, too, were to aid the ongoing battery-swap work. Instead, Meir and Koch will replace the battery charge/discharge unit, or BCDU, that broke over the weekend.
Over the weekend, while the International Space Station crew members attempted to integrate some of the recently installed lithium ion batteries into the power system, they realized a hardware glitch related to the BCDU was preventing the batteries from working at full capacity.
"It's manageable, but not something that we would want to live with in the long-term," Kenny Todd, manager of International Space Station Operations Integration, told reporters during a teleconference on Tuesday.
Astronauts aboard the space station ran into a similar issue during earlier installations on a different power channel.
"In that particular case, not only did the BCDU fail, but the fuse inside the lithium ion battery was blown," Todd said. "The new battery appears to be fine, including fuse, they just lost the discharge unit."
Todd said it's paramount that they figure out why the same problem occurred twice in such a short amount of time.
With priorities for repair work shifted, officials decided to move up the all-female spacewalk scheduled for Oct. 21.
"Based on workload, makes sense for the women to do their spacewalk [this week]," Megan McArthur, deputy chief of NASA's Astronaut Office, told reporters.
Though Meir and Koch will revisit their planning for the new spacewalk mission, the duo are already well-prepared to perform a variety of electrical repairs. According to McArthur, the skills they need for this particular extra vehicular activity are part of basic skills-based training.
"They have seen all of these types of tasks and are qualified to conduct them," she said.
McArthur said that she and her colleagues don't consider gender when planning spacewalks.
"This was the right crew to send out for this set of tasks," McArthur said. "The fact that it'll be two women is just a reflection that we have so many qualified women in the office."
After donning their spacesuits, Meir and Koch will grab the spare BCDU and attach themselves to the robotic arm. The arm will take them to the truss, on which they will walk to the worksite. It will take the duo roughly 3 hours to remove the old BCDU and replace it with the new component.
Officials said they were 50-50 on whether the spacewalk will happen on Thursday or Friday.
"I have full confidence we'll recover the channel by the end of the week," Todd said.
But the priority, Todd told reporters, is figuring out why the failures are happening.
"When you have one failure you go oh that's interesting, but when you have two you stop and think about it," he said.