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NASA scrubs first all-female spacewalk over suit sizing

There aren't enough medium-sized spacesuits ready on the ISS to support two women spacewalkers.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain during her March 22 spacewalk.

NASA

It's been 35 years since cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to walk in space when she stepped outside the Salyut 7 space station. We're now going to have to wait longer for the first all-female spacewalk team.

NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were originally scheduled to take a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Friday, which would have made them the first all-female spacewalk team in history. But on Monday, NASA announced a change of assignments that will instead send astronaut Nick Hague out with Koch.

Hague and Koch will continue work on a project to upgrade the ISS solar array battery storage system. They will swap out old nickel-hydrogen batteries with more powerful lithium-ion batteries.  

"McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso -- essentially the shirt of the spacesuit -- fits her best," NASA said. "Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it."

NASA tweeted a clarification about the spacesuits on Tuesday, noting that there's more than one medium torso on the ISS, but that to stay on schedule "it's safer and faster to change spacewalker assignments than reconfigure spacesuits."

There is no difference between a male or female's suit, except that female astronauts usually require a smaller size, according to NASA

McClain posted a video to Twitter on March 21 explaining what goes into preparing a spacesuit for a spacewalk, a maintenance and cleaning process that starts about a month ahead of the actual event.

This spacewalk would have been a quick turnaround for McClain, who took part in her first spacewalk this past Friday along with Hague. McClain and Hague worked on swapping out batteries and installing adapter plates.  

The battery upgrades are scheduled to take place over a couple of years as new hardware arrives at the ISS.    

NASA TV will kick off live coverage starting at 3:30 a.m. PT Friday. The actual spacewalk is expected to begin around 5:20 a.m. PT and will last about 6.5 hours. 

McClain is still set to take another spacewalk, but this time it's scheduled for April 8 along with Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques. 

Originally posted March 25, 9:35 a.m. PT.
Update, 3 p.m. : Adds details from NASA's change-of-assignment announcement.
Update, March 26: Adds information about spacesuit sizing and maintenance and NASA clarification on spacesuit availability on the ISS.