Shuttle leak repairs good, launch on for Wednesday

Oct 31, 2010 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
In this Sept. 20, 2010 file photo, Space shuttle Discovery begins its 3.4-mile journey to Launch Pad 39A after leaving the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Last-minute leak repairs have again pushed back space shuttle Discovery's final launch, this time until Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010. NASA delayed Discovery's flight to the International Space Station yet another day because more work was needed than initially thought to replace a pair of leaking pipe hookups near the shuttle's tail, NASA test director Jeff Spaulding said Saturday, Oct. 30.(AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

(AP) -- After a two-day delay, NASA's countdown clocks began ticking Sunday toward the final launch of space shuttle Discovery.

A pair of gas leaks resulted in back-to-back launch postponements for Discovery. test director Steve Payne said repairs took care of the problem and enabled the launch team to aim for a Wednesday liftoff.

Forecasters put the odds of good weather at 70 percent for the 3:52 p.m. liftoff.

Discovery is making its last trip to orbit. Its destination is the . Aboard the shuttle is a pressurized compartment full of supplies - even a futuristic robot - that will remain permanently at the station.

The mission will last 11 days and feature two spacewalks.

This will be the 39th flight in 26 years for Discovery, NASA's oldest surviving shuttle and the fleet leader.

"She's been an incredible vehicle, and she caps a long and distinguished career with this particular flight," Payne told reporters. "She's always amazed us with everything that she can do. We expect this flight should be no different."

Discovery was supposed to blast off Monday but was sidelined by small leaks in the helium and nitrogen gas lines at the back of the spaceship. Technicians and engineers spent the past few days replacing suspect parts and testing the patched system.

"That is behind us now," Payne said.

Only one other shuttle launch remains on NASA's official schedule, in late February. That will end 30 years of shuttle flight unless money is forthcoming for an extra mission. The Obama administration wants NASA to focus on the next set of exploration vehicles.

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3 / 5 (2) Nov 01, 2010
It'd sure be nice when they get back to a design which doesn't have to uselessly lift the weight of its main engines all the way into orbit.
not rated yet Nov 01, 2010
The Shuttle is basically a 1960's design and has lasted incredibly well. That does make you ask: how many years should a launch vehicle be in service? Will NASA still be flying in year 2060 what it designs in the next few years? It seems we either have to do something "on the cheap" and replace it more frequently, or accept that it is obsolescent technology when the vehicles near the end of their service life, or have a revolutionary advance that changes the game. With all the technological advances since the 1960's to now, it seems we are still more or less in the kindergarten stages of space exploration which hasn't moved forwards very far. Russia, China, France are launching what are effectively Apollo era big rockets. We don't yet have space elevators or anything that will make this a much cheaper and lower risk operation. I have to believe the game changer will come along soon.
Dec 29, 2010
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