Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) had to abandon solar panel repair efforts and leave it half way retracted after seven long hours and went ahead with the next steps in their mission to rewire the outpost's electrical system.
The folding of the 115-foot-long array was to set the stage for hooking up the ISS' permanent electricity-generating system during two spacewalks later this week.
However, mission controllers told the astronauts they were considering mounting a spacewalk later in the mission to manually retract the solar wing.
The International Space Station's newest set of solar arrays is tracking the sun tonight, following partial retraction of a similar array that's been the station's primary power plant for six years.
This event sets the stage for two challenging spacewalks by the STS-116 crew to rewire and reroute the station's power system.
The Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ) and the new set of arrays are a part of the P3/ P4 truss segments that were installed onto the station in September during the STS-115 mission.
The rotary joint enables the solar arrays to follow the sun and generate the maximum power possible. Activation of the SARJ occurred shortly before 8 pm EST, and a few minutes later the Mission Control Center in Houston notified the crew that the arrays were following the sun.