NASA tests aging shuttle after failed launch

NASA carried out tests on the external fuel tank of the aging shuttle Discovery.

Washington: NASA carried out tests on the external fuel tank of the aging shuttle Discovery on Friday after strange cracks appeared during a countdown last month which delayed its final launch into space.

"So far, so good," said Allard Beutel, a spokesman for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, adding that there was no immediate sign of the cracks or the hydrogen leak that scuppered the November 5 countdown.

"It looks like we`re getting good data," said Mike Moses, a launch manager at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

"It`s definitely getting us back to a launch posture," he added.

Engineers said it would take several days to analyze the results from 89 temperature and tension sensors that were placed on the fuel tank, which was then filled with super-cold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

The tank was to be pressurized to flight levels in a mock countdown later on Friday before it is drained. The sensors will continue to collect results through Saturday as the tank returns to normal temperatures.

The instruments are expected to gather at least 6 terabytes of data, the equivalent of three academic research libraries, NASA said in a statement.

Engineers are trying to figure out why a pair of "stringers" -- 21-foot-long (6.5 meter) U-shaped aluminum brackets -- cracked during the countdown for the shuttle`s last voyage into space.

Discovery`s final mission to the International Space Station has been delayed until a launch window from February 3-10. If the launch cannot occur at that time another window will open from February 27 to March 3.

Another shuttle, Endeavour, is set to take off in April in what will be the last official shuttle launch scheduled for the US program.

A third shuttle launch could take place in the summer before the entire fleet is retired for good.

Bureau Report

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