Stuck bolt on space station stymies spacewalkers
* Problem leaves space station without one power unit
* Astronauts likely to return soon to attempt repair
* Spacewalk was NASA's first since last year
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Aug 30 (Reuters) - NASA on Thursday halted attempts to replace a power device on the International Space Station after spacewalking astronauts repeatedly failed to free a stuck bolt, officials said.
NASA astronaut Sunita Williams and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide, both station flight engineers, had planned to spend 6.5 hours outside the orbital outpost to work on its power system and install electrical cables for a new Russian module expected to arrive next year.
The astronauts ran into problems after removing the station's balky 220-pound (100-kg) power-switching unit, one of four used in a system that generates electrical power from the station's solar array wings.
Williams reported finding thin metal shavings on a bolt on the old unit and around the bolt housing.
The astronauts used a can of nitrogen gas to blow away the shavings before attempting to install the new unit, but problems mounted.
Repeated attempts to attach the new device failed when a bolt jammed.
"We're kind of at a loss of what else we can try," astronaut Jack Fischer at NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston told the crew after more than an hour of trouble-shooting. "If you guys have any thoughts or ideas or brilliant schemes on what we can do, let us know."
Hoshide suggested using a tool that provides more force on bolts, but NASA engineers were reluctant to try anything that could make the situation worse.
As the spacewalk slipped past seven hours, flight controllers told the astronauts to tether the unit in place, clean up their tools and head back into the station's airlock.
"We're going to figure it out another day," Fischer said.
NASA was expected to hold a news conference later on Thursday to discuss what effect, if any, the loss of one power-switching unit will have on station operations and science.
The spacewalk was NASA's first since the final space shuttle mission in July 2011.
Thursday's outing followed a six-hour Russian spacewalk on Aug. 20 by cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Yuri Malenchenko to relocate a crane, launch a small science satellite and install micrometeoroid shields on the station's Zvezda command module.
The station, a $100-billion project of 15 countries, is an orbiting laboratory used for medical and basic science experiments, microgravity research and technology development.
Williams was able to finish most of the work to install electrical lines for the new Russian laboratory. But the astronauts were unable to get to a third task replacing a camera on the station's robot arm. (Editing by Xavier Briand)
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