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NASA Space

Discovery Launch a No-Go, Again 98

Posted by timothy
from the but-they'll-miss-their-connections dept.
An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from Tech Fragments that says "NASA has yet again postponed the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery, which was due to launch today, because of a hydrogen leak in the vent line between the external fuel tank and main engines. The vent line is at the intertank region of the external tank and is the overboard vent to the pad and the flare stack where the vented hydrogen is burned off. ... The NASA launch team is resetting to preserve the option of attempting a Thursday night liftoff at 8:54 p.m. EDT depending on what repairs are needed and what managers decide. The Mission Management Team is meeting at 5 p.m. today to discuss the issue." You can watch for updates on NASA's Space Shuttle page, too.
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Discovery Launch a No-Go, Again

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  • What do you know, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pecosdave (536896) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:03PM (#27158045) Homepage Journal

    For the first time I find out about a scrub before the crew loads up from work not /. - or CNN, or Fark, or Fox news.

    It's sick but I do ground system maintenance and unless I'm actually watching the screen and listening to DVIS we find out about the scrubs from the news, not the pipeline around here.

  • by confused one (671304) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:14PM (#27158187)
    Any guesses as to how many times that plane you last flew on was delayed because it needed a repair?
  • Re:"again"? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iamlucky13 (795185) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:46PM (#27158595)
    This mission was originally supposed to launch February 12. I know, because I bought tickets to go see it, and I ended up missing (KSC still makes for a great vacation though).

    They got within a week or two of launch, and decided they still weren't happy with the analysis that had been conducted for troubleshooting an issue with the propellant lines that cropped up during Endeavor's STS-126 launch. A valve on a secondary fuel handling line had failed, and while it didn't appear to affect that flight there was concern that it would either result in metal particles from the valve causing issues downstream, or lead to excess hydrogen venting that could cause a fire. They spent the last month testing and quantifying the probability of these concerns, and figuring out additional safeguards to implement for this flight, since making new valves would be an additional two months.

    The next possible launch window is about 23:30 after this one, but apparently the expected resolution for the leak is a multi-day process. The launch is now scheduled for no-earlier-than Mar 15 (19:43 EDT), but Mar 16 (19:21 EDT) sounds likely. As I understand it, re-installing the ground support hydrogen line on external tank requires a 30 hour waiting period before applying the final torque to allow the seals to compress...a typical factor when working with torque specs on plastic components. That 30 hours is on top of the time to demate and remate the hydrogen line, do leak checks, and reset to the proper point in the countdown.

    Anyway, because they're working against a launch window before the next Soyuz launches to the station, they're losing at least one mission day, and if it slips to the 16th, they'll be losing another day, plus one EVA. That will mean they can get the last solar array installed, but not fully hooked up. I'm not sure if that EVA would be handed off to a future shuttle mission, or if it could be fit into the station crew's schedule. If the launch happens after Mar. 16, they'll have to wait until after the Soyuz mission.

    There's a briefing going on regarding all this right now on NASA TV.
  • Flex hours... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:48PM (#27158629)

    attempting a Thursday night liftoff at 8:54 p.m. EDT depending on what repairs are needed and what managers decide. The Mission Management Team is meeting at 5 p.m. today

    I'm looking at a career change. Does *anybody* at NASA go home at 4:30 every day?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:52PM (#27158685)
    I don't think the course is really that unusual. I believe they fly it for about half the launches to the ISS (the other half fly the opposite angle southward). The 51.6 degree orbit carries it pretty close to the angle of the coastline.

    The important factors for this launch are that it is the northward initial course, it's a night launch, so the plume is prominent, and the weather looks promising for a good view.

    Next launch opportunity will likely be Sunday or Monday, because the part that needs to be worked on has a multi-day re-installation procedure.
  • Re:Flex hours... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:19PM (#27159107)
    If you think that's bad, two weeks they had a single meeting that lasted 14 hours discussing an issue that cropped up during the STS-126 launch and whether it warranted a further delay for this launch to finish correcting it.
  • Re:The race... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jcnnghm (538570) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:43PM (#27159415)

    It would seem that NASA is not as serious about the new space race as China. Someone will end up controlling the skies, just got to wonder whom.

    Since they'd still be behind even if we wound the clock back to 1969, I don't think we've got a whole lot to worry about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @07:27PM (#27160037)

    Every time I see the word "yet" in a news item concerning a delay in launching a shuttle, I'm taken back to Dan Rather's words the night before NASA launched the Challenger for the last time.

    "Yet another costly, red-faces-all-around space shuttle-launch delay. This time a bad bolt on a hatch and a bad-weather bolt from the blue are being blamed. What's more, a rescheduled launch for tomorrow doesn't look good either. Bruce Hall has the latest on today's high-tech low comedy."

    There was a lot of talk and reports about NASA being pressured to launch this mission and the resulting slack in decision making. No excuse for that, of course, but I worked at NASA at the time and Dan Rather was on the s**t list for a long time afterwards.

  • by lennier (44736) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:03PM (#27161529) Homepage

    "Let's just take that 800b and put it towards applied sciences and a golden age ye shall have!"

    Because space is just teeming with exotic lands and spices, right?

    How do you construct a golden age from 1) vacuum and 2) rock when we're struggling to do it with a whole planet's worth of biosphere?

The tree of research must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of bean counters. -- Alan Kay

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