NASA Postpones Spacewalk at Space Station to Mid-February

Astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency tries on a pair of spacesuit sleeves inside the Quest airlock of the International Space Station.
Astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency tries on a pair of spacesuit sleeves inside the Quest airlock of the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA officials on Saturday (Jan. 27) postponed a planned spacewalk at the International Space Station this week after developing a software patch for a glitch that two astronauts had expected to fix during the spacewalk.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency were scheduled to spend more than six hours working outside the space station on Monday (Jan. 29). Their goal, NASA officials said, was to replace a latching end effector (LEE) that serves as the grappling end of the station's robotic arm.

The LEE in question was installed on the robotic arm during a spacewalk Tuesday (Jan. 23)by Vande Hei and NASA astronaut Scott Tingle. But when powered up, the LEE did not respond as expected on its main communications channel, but did respond on its backup. [Space Station Photos: Expedition 54 Crew in Orbit]

To address the LEE glitch, NASA replanned Monday's spacewalk Vande Hei and Kanai (which was already scheduled) to replace the new LEE with the older one removed on Tuesday. But engineers with the Canadian Space Agency — which provided the station's robotic arm system — found a software patch to fix the LEE communications glitch.

That means Vande Hei and Kanai won't have to go outside and replace the LEE on the robotic arm, NASA officials said. Instead, the astronauts will venture outside in mid-February to perform the tasks that were originally scheduled for their spacewalk. They include installing LEE removed from the station's arm Tuesday to a new location on the outpost's railcar-like Mobile Transporter, and bringing a still-older LEE removed from the station's arm in October inside the station.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award (opens in new tab) for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast (opens in new tab) with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network (opens in new tab). To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik (opens in new tab).