Discovery launch 'no earlier than' December 3

November 18, 2010
The final launch of the space shuttle Discovery has been delayed until at least December 3 so that repairs can be carried out on a hydrogen leak, the US space agency said Thursday.

The final launch of the space shuttle Discovery has been delayed until at least December 3 so that repairs can be carried out on a hydrogen leak, the US space agency said Thursday.

NASA said it would review the required analysis and repairs over the next five days and hoped to hold a decisive meeting on the launch on Monday, November 29.

"The Kennedy Space Center 'Call-to-Stations' to begin the launch countdown will be no earlier than Nov. 30, supporting a first launch attempt no earlier than Dec. 3," it said in a statement.

Inspectors this week found a fourth crack in support beams on the external fuel tanks of the space shuttle.

The latest crack was found when technicians removed foam while inspecting the support beams, which are called stringers, in the aftermath of the hydrogen leak, the space agency said.

Two nine-inch (21-centimeter) cracks were found in an adjacent support beam last Friday, and a three-inch (7.5 centimeter) fissure was uncovered over the weekend.

To get in a flight to the this year, Discovery must blast off before December 6. Otherwise it will have to wait until February, the same month that the last-ever shuttle launch is scheduled before the fleet is mothballed for good.

Discovery's 11-day mission with its all-American crew of six is to deliver a pressurized logistics module called Leonardo to the ISS, which will be permanently attached to the space station to provide more storage space.

The shuttle will also bring Robonaut 2, the first human-like robot in space and a permanent addition to the orbiting space station, as well as spare parts.

Two space walks, for maintenance work and component installation, are scheduled.

The Discovery has launched into space 38 times, and aims to retire the shuttle after its final and 39th voyage.

The launch aims to be the fourth and final shuttle flight of the year, and the last scheduled for Discovery, the oldest in the three-shuttle fleet that is being retired next year.

But the mission has been marred by a series of delays brought on by bad weather and equipment problems.

The three US shuttles -- the other two are Atlantis and Endeavour -- are due to be sent off to become museum pieces after a final shuttle mission to the space station in late February.

That means Russian Soyuz spacecraft, a modernized version of which recently dropped off three fresh crew members to the ISS, doubling the crew to six, will for several years be the only vehicle for transporting humans into space.

However, NASA's recently approved 2011 budget has left the door open to an additional shuttle flight in June.

Explore further: Leaks delay final launch of space shuttle Discovery

Related Stories

NASA gets ready for another space mission

March 31, 2008

Now that the latest space shuttle Endeavour mission is completed, the U.S. space agency said it's preparing for the May launch of space shuttle Discovery.

Shuttle 'Go' for Dec. 6 Launch

December 4, 2007

Space shuttle Atlantis is set to begin its launch countdown for the STS-122 mission with a flurry of activities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Atlantis is scheduled to launch at 4:31 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. ...

NASA green lights April 5 launch of Discovery

March 27, 2010

The US space agency NASA gave its thumbs up for the April 5 launch of the shuttle Discovery, which will take a seven-member crew, including a Japanese astronaut, to the International Space Station (ISS).

Space shuttle Atlantis lifts off on supply mission

November 16, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Space shuttle Atlantis and its six-member crew began an 11-day delivery flight to the International Space Station on Monday with a 2:28 p.m. EST launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The shuttle ...

Recommended for you

NASA telescope studies quirky comet 45P

November 22, 2017

When comet 45P zipped past Earth early in 2017, researchers observing from NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility, or IRTF, in Hawai'i gave the long-time trekker a thorough astronomical checkup. The results help fill in crucial ...

Uncovering the origins of galaxies' halos

November 21, 2017

Using the Subaru Telescope atop Maunakea, researchers have identified 11 dwarf galaxies and two star-containing halos in the outer region of a large spiral galaxy 25 million light-years away from Earth. The findings, published ...

Cassini image mosaic: A farewell to Saturn

November 21, 2017

In a fitting farewell to the planet that had been its home for over 13 years, the Cassini spacecraft took one last, lingering look at Saturn and its splendid rings during the final leg of its journey and snapped a series ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.