Mon, Nov 01, 2010 - Page 7 News List

‘Discovery’ launch delayed to Wednesday, NASA says

PENULTIMATE FLIGHT?Touted the space ship’s final mission, a recently approved NASA budget does leave the possibility open for an additional voyage next year

AFP, WASHINGTON

The space shuttle “Discovery” sits on Pad 39A on Saturday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The shuttle is now scheduled for launch on Wednesday after being postponed for two days due to repairs to a leak on the shuttles’ maneuvering rocket engine.

PHOTO: AFP

The final scheduled mission of space shuttle Discovery was delayed another 24 hours to Wednesday as technicians struggled to repair leaks in a pressurization system, NASA said on Saturday.

Kennedy Space Center technicians worked overnight to repair quick-disconnect fittings in the system used to pressurize one of Discovery’s orbital maneuvering rocket engines.

The leaks were discovered on Friday, prompting the space agency to push back the launch by a day to tomorrow.

NASA test director Jeff Spaulding said technicians had made “good progress” fixing the leaks “but are slightly behind the timeline that was prepared yesterday.”

“We are optimistic we can target launch for Wednesday,” he said. “Right now we’re in a good path to get there.”

Officials forecast a 70 percent chance of acceptable weather conditions for the Wednesday launch.

The current launch window for the mission lasts until Sunday, Spaulding said.

If technicians are able to finish their repairs on time, -Discovery and its six US astronauts will now launch from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at 3:52pm on Wednesday bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Discovery’s all-American crew, including female mission specialist Nicole Stott, will deliver a pressurized logistics module called Leonardo, which will be permanently attached to the space station to give it 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 flight to the orbiting -International Space Station (ISS) is 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.

The three US shuttles — the other two are Atlantis and Endeavor — 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 budget for next year has left the door open to an additional shuttle flight in June.

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