Florida NASA canceled today's spacewalk to inspect a snarled joint for a set of solar panels and instead instructed its orbiting astronauts to go out a day later to try to fix a torn solar wing.
The newly ripped wing is now the more pressing of the two problems at the international space station, both of which involve the crucial power system and threaten to disrupt future construction work.
NASA fears the damage could worsen and the wing could lose all power-collecting capability and become unstable. If that happened, the wing would have to be junked, said NASA's space station program manager, Mike Suffredini.
"We've made it a priority to go repair it," Suffredini said Wednesday.
Engineers scrambled to put together a plan for a spacewalk as early as Friday to tackle the wing, which remains partially deployed. It ripped in two places as it was being unfurled by astronauts aboard the linked shuttle-station complex Tuesday, and a hinge may have been yanked and partially ripped.