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International Space Station preparing for 'space taxis'

A spacewalk outside the International Space Station planned for Friday was postponed by a day, after "added analysis of spacesuits" the astronauts will wear on their walk, according to a NASA statement released Friday.

The mirrorlike visor of NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman reflects fellow astronaut Barry Wilmore during their Oct. 15, 2014, spacewalk outside the International Space Station.
NASA
The mirrorlike visor of NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman reflects fellow astronaut Barry Wilmore during their Oct. 15, 2014, spacewalk outside the International Space Station.

A NASA spokesperson confirmed to CNBC that NASA needed more time to look at the suits, but did not give any additional information.

Two astronauts will prepare the station for two new docks for the spacecraft that will ferry astronauts and gear to and from the station. Boeing is building the docking adapters but Space X will carry them to the station on cargo mission CRS-7, launching this summer. The adapters will allow both Boeing CST's and Space X's Dragon spacecraft to dock on the American side of the station, even though the two companies' ships are designed differently.

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The astronauts will be setting up cables on the first two walks and antennae on the third walk scheduled for March 1.

If all goes according to plan, it will be the first time vessels have docked on American side of the space station since NASA ended the Space Shuttle program and began paying Russia more than $70 million a seat to take astronauts to and from the station.

It will also permit NASA to increase the size of the American crew on the station, and double the amount of scientific research that the team can perform, according NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz.

NASA awarded Boeing a $4.2 billion contract in September to develop a transportation capable of carrying human passengers, according to Kelly Kaplan, a spokesperson for Boeing. Other reports indicate Space X received $2.6 billion for manned space missions at the same time.

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Both companies, along with others, have other space contracts with NASA.

The commercial crew program is expected to improve the quality of the research being done on the station, by getting research samples from space to scientists on the ground faster; under the terms of the contract, crew have to be returned within an hour of landing and critical cargo have to be retrieved within two hours.

"The longer you have something from microgravity sitting in gravity," said NASA's Shierholz, "the more degradation there is, and the tougher it is to study it as it would be in space."