NASA hopeful repairs will permit Sunday launch

Mar 14, 2009 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
Space Shuttle Discovery is seen on pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla Saturday, March 14, 2009. Space Shuttle Discovery's seven member crew are scheduled to lift off Sunday evening on a mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

(AP) -- NASA is unsure what caused the hydrogen gas leak that prevented space shuttle Discovery from flying, but nonetheless will attempt another launch Sunday.

Shuttle managers are hopeful that repairs at the pad have solved the problem.

There's "a potential risk" that the leak will recur, said Mike Moses, chairman of the mission management team. That would mean yet another delay for the international construction mission, which already is running more than a month late.

"We did everything we could, which is to replace all the hardware," Moses told reporters Saturday. "Yeah, we'd like to have that root cause, because now you'd feel comfortable. But I'm still going to sleep just as good tonight knowing that our chances tomorrow are really good that we did lick this problem."

NASA has until Tuesday to launch Discovery before having to wait for a that is set to blast off to the space station March 26.

The latest delay occurred Wednesday, just hours before liftoff, as NASA was almost finished loading Discovery's . Hydrogen gas began leaking where a vent line hooks up to the tank.

NASA replaced that hookup and a pair of seals and, in fact, fell a few hours behind in countdown preparations because of an assembly issue. Nothing obvious was wrong with the removed parts. One of the seals was slightly rolled up along the edge, and the hookup itself was discolored in one spot. But neither of those issues may have caused the leak, said launch director Mike Leinbach.

"I just don't have a smoking gun," Leinbach said. He acknowledged it's a little unusual to continue the countdown in such a case, but he stressed it's not a launch safety issue because the launch will be canceled again if there's a leak.

Discovery's previous delays - which have stretched over month - were caused by hydrogen in the engine compartment. NASA ordered extra tests and kept replacing the valves to make sure they were safe to fly. One of these valves broke on the last shuttle launch in November.

Waiting to fly since mid-February, Discovery and seven astronauts are set to carry up one last set of solar wings for the space station.

The mission was intended to last 14 days and include four spacewalks. But now it's down to 13 days and three spacewalks at best. That's because Discovery needs to be gone by the time the Soyuz blasts off from Kazakhstan with a fresh space station .

If Discovery isn't flying by Tuesday night, then it will have to wait until April.

NASA's space station program manager, Mike Suffredini, said the first spacewalk is essential for installing the new solar wings. The remaining spacewalks - mostly preparatory work for future missions - could be handed off to the station crew after Discovery leaves.

Suffredini said it's also critical the shuttle drop off a spare urine processor for the space station's water-recyling system, and a flusher for a water dispenser that's showing a high bacteria count.

The urine processor up at the space station needs to be replaced because it's not working properly, and engineers want to flush iodine through the water dispenser to kill any bugs.

This new recycling system - which turns urine and condensate into drinking water - is a keystone in NASA's plan to double the size of the space station crew in another two months.

---

On the Net:

NASA: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA shooting for Sunday shuttle Discovery launch

Mar 12, 2009

(AP) -- NASA is replacing some space shuttle connections in hopes of plugging a gas leak and launching Discovery to the international space station on Sunday, after delays of more than a month.

NASA: Good shot at Sunday shuttle launch

Mar 13, 2009

(AP) -- NASA feels it has a good shot at sending shuttle Discovery to the international space station on Sunday following repairs out at the launch pad.

Recommended for you

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

1 hour ago

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Let's put a sailboat on Titan

7 hours ago

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. ...

Image: Rosetta's Philae lander snaps a selfie

7 hours ago

Philae is awake… and taking pictures! This image, acquired last night with the lander's CIVA (Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer) instrument, shows the left and right solar panels of ESA's well-traveled ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Suzu
not rated yet Mar 15, 2009
We need bunch of competitors. I know it doesn't sound realistic atm, but one can hope for the future.

More news stories

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

Researchers see hospitalization records as additional tool

Comparing hospitalization records with data reported to local boards of health presents a more accurate way to monitor how well communities track disease outbreaks, according to a paper published April 16 in the journal PLOS ON ...

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

Scientists say that the Ebola (ee-BOH'-lah) virus that has killed scores of people this year in Guinea (GIH'-nee) is a new strain. That means it did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations.