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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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  • It can't be fixed...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by negRo_slim (636783)
      Hence the need for a damn space elevator... We have to let go of our fixation on all things combustion. Let's just take that 800b and put it towards applied sciences and a golden age ye shall have!
      • by MrKaos (858439) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @07:31PM (#27160099) Journal
        Can we make the elevator out of duct tape?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lennier (44736)

        "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?

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          Nasa needs to outright lie and say something like we found... space oil or some shit like that on Mars.

          We'd have a new shuttle program within a week.

      • by thesnide (640733)

        And if it breaks, we will finally see this black line on the equator that is on globes...

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by confused one (671304)
      I wish I had mod points. Thank-you, you made me laugh.
  • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:02PM (#27158029)

    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. ...

    All you gotta do is reflangulate the intertank, recalibrate the L16 connectors for the overboard vent pad, then halve the current to the flare dampener in the flare stack to compensate for the excess vented hydrogen. Bake on 350 for 20 minutes and allow to cool.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by negRo_slim (636783)
      Or just recalibrate the phasers and fire them for a 5 min burst upon the dilithium crystals. Should work!
    • by MxTxL (307166) <mlutter&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:27PM (#27158323)

      Ah... well, hell. Why didn't you say so??

      *picard voice*
      COMPUTER! Reflangulate the intertank, recalibrate the L16 connectors for the overboard vent pad, then halve the current to the flare dampener in the flare stack to compensate for the excess vented hydrogen. Bake on 350 for 20 minutes and allow to cool!
      *end picard vioce*

      • by bami (1376931)

        Why do I actually hear Patrick Stewart saying that in my head?

        I think the picard song has something to do with that.

        ENGAGE!

    • by Slumdog (1460213)
      Wrong, just put back the heart of the heart of gold and feed your score from grand theft cosmo.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kell Bengal (711123)
      Don't forget to reverse the polarity.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Narishma (822073)
      You forgot the most important thing: reverse the polarity. That seems to fix anything wrong with the ships in Star Trek.
      • by chekk4 (1367067)
        What they really mean when they say that:
        "Try flipping the batteries the other way around."
    • Yes, but did you remember to set the SCE to AUX before rebooting the E-MECs? (hint: only real geeks will get the joke)
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      ... intertank region of the external tank...

      Meaning the vacuum space encapsulating the liquid hydrogen storage vessel (in case there is a leak) or the relief line from the ullage space? Oh wait, it must be the former.
    • Don't forget to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow!
    • by ecklesweb (713901)

      I'm gonna' need some pliers, and a set of 30 weight ball bearings (it's all ball bearing nowadays) And I'm gonna' need about 10 quarts of antifreeze, preferably Prestone. No, make that Quaker State.

  • 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 longacre (1090157) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:03PM (#27158047) Homepage
    The shuttle is set to take an unusual course nearly parallel with the east coast for this mission, which will be visible to nearly everyone from Florida to New York [nycaviation.com]. The weather is a bit cloudy today, but should be perfectly clear Thursday night.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ZankerH (1401751)

        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.

        Actually, all launches to ISS from Kennedy Space Center follow that course. For some reason, Cuba doesn't like American stuff in their airspace, so the descending node (southward) launch window is never used.

  • "again"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cally (10873) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:04PM (#27158067) Homepage

    This is the first scrub of STS-119 since the T-44 countdown start. Colour me pedantic and all but... *shrug*

    It sounds to me like they're expecting to have to pull down the stack to fix this, though the clock's theoretically only reset to T+24 in case they decide it's OK to fly with this issue, in which case we'll see the next launch attempt at 01:20 UTC plus a bit tomorrow night, when the ISS orbit's next sync'd with Florida.

    • by fm6 (162816)

      This is the first scrub of STS-119 since the T-44 countdown start. Colour me pedantic and all but... *shrug*

      What? Delays don't count if they happen before you start the countdown clock? What is this, a tennis game?

    • 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.
      • by pipingguy (566974) *
        ...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.

        Maybe it has something to do with cooldown times for components exposed to liquid hydrogen at -423 F.
        • Maybe it has something to do with cooldown times for components exposed to liquid hydrogen at -423 F.

          According to a Mission Management Team memo (not officially published, but there happen to be a couple outlets good at getting details), it's torquing issue. Here's the specific quote [nasaspaceflight.com] I was referencing:

          In the reinstallation of the flight seal, there is a 30 hour retorque requirement, that pushes us to a Monday launch. The team is looking to examine if there is some wiggle room in the 30 hr torque requiremen

          • by pipingguy (566974) *
            My only reference is restarting (bootstrapping) an air separation plant, so you may well be right. I was thinking about re-torquing needed due to component shrinkage, but if everything's kept at or near the low temperature the cooldown time of 2 hours might not be too long. I'm only partially familiar with cryo cooldown procedures (and not how NASA does it) from the perspective of a cold box designer and sometimes customer installation designer for LH2 facilities.
            • Ahh...good thought, but not the case here.

              This area isn't chilled down until fuel loading begins, and I believe that is just done by sending LH2, or possibly a brief helium purge, through at low volumes for a while...I think only 30 minutes. Then they just pumping it in at full volume until its full. I guess that's slow enough that thermal stresses aren't an issue, and contraction is dealt with in the design. The main concern is boiloff, but the thermal mass of the fuel is far greater than that of the ta
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      They're probably going to move heaven and earth to avoid a rollback - with STS-125 (the Hubble mission) in the batter's box they are in a tight corner... 125 needs both pads, because there isn't a safe haven (as there is for ISS missions). The longer it takes to get 125 off the ground, the longer it is before they can hand over a pad to start conversion for Ares.

  • by dvh.tosomja (1235032) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:19PM (#27158233)

    This article is very poor, I can't manage the way how to blame Microsoft for that failure.

  • Given all the myriad dangers of space travel encountered over the past 30 years, that have been dealt with or fixed in-flight, NASA is aweful skittish these days about flying shuttles with flecks of paint missing.

    Yes, I know a hydrogen leak is potentially far more serious, but that's what it seems like I hear about delaying launches.

    • by djupedal (584558)

      Kidding, right?

      ...'hydrogen leak' is always the cover story for things such as flaky paint.

      If nothing else, it follows Scotty's rule (padding his stated times needed for repairs by a factor of four), so you look the pro when you yet again beat the estimate.

  • FFS, that poor shuttle needs to get retired while it's still in one piece or it's going to end up scattered across the North Atlantic, and we'll have to make do with a scale model for the Smithsonian.

    Can someone please build us another spaceship before it's too late?

      1. SpaceX's Dragon
      2. Scaled Composite's SS3
      3. armadillo's aerospace
      4. Blue Origin's New Shepard.

      And that is just a few. So, relax, they are coming. In fact, the nice thing is that we have a great deal of the infrastructure for doing the moon with these, combined with Bigelow, within 5-8 years. While Armadillo and Blue Origin does not really make sense for launching heavy cargo on earth, it DOES make LOTS of sense for a moon transporter.

  • Flex hours... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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 Narnie (1349029)
      I think the managers do...
      Manager #1: Doesn't look like liftoff will happen before our tee time.
      Manager #2: Well, there is that leak issue the engineers were griping about...
      Manager #1: Great--blame the leak, scrub the launch, let the engineers do their fix, and let's try again next launch window. Got your clubs with you or do you need to stop by home first?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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.
  • The race... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by retech (1228598) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:59PM (#27158789)
    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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jcnnghm (538570)

      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 retech (1228598)
        I guess we'll have to see how that pans out in the next two years. China may very well win the upper hand while NASA remains grossly under funded.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jcnnghm (538570)

          You honestly believe that in the next two years China can catch up on the last 40 years of NASA R&D? They would have to land a man on the moon, develop and launch a space telescope better than the JWST, they would have had to land and operate rovers on Mars 3 years ago, since we've already operated rovers on Mars for 5 years, construct a global satellite communications network, and a global satellite positioning system. They aren't even close to being near where the US is, nobody is. We've been miles

          • by cyn1c77 (928549)

            You honestly believe that in the next two years China can catch up on the last 40 years of NASA R&D? They would have to land a man on the moon, develop and launch a space telescope better than the JWST, they would have had to land and operate rovers on Mars 3 years ago, since we've already operated rovers on Mars for 5 years, construct a global satellite communications network, and a global satellite positioning system. They aren't even close to being near where the US is, nobody is. We've been miles and miles ahead for decades.

            I do believe that the Chinese can catch up with us very quickly. They have already achieved manned spaceflight. They aren't stupid people, they are incredibly motivated (by their power-seeking government), and they have gotten a lot of help from the Russians. Plus, they are really really good at reverse engineering other countries successful designs.

            Also, they don't really need to catch up to 40 years of manned spaceflight. We started trying for space in when? 1959? And our last lunar mission was in

            • by jcnnghm (538570)

              You're assuming progress stopped in 1973. US space budgets still represent over 80% of global space spending. Going further than the Moon is significantly harder than going to the moon. Nobody had ever done that engineering (landing and surviving on mars) before, and it wasn't easy. You're also totally discounting our satellite arrays, like the space telescopes, of which there are several that do different things, and our earth monitoring and GPS satellites. All of these were difficult, expensive engi

          • by retech (1228598)

            much? It's certainly not rational, we're so far ahead at this point even if we gave them the research and a couple of billion dollars a year, they'd still be dropping further back.

            Bit of a leap there. I actually thought pointing out and criticizing obvious flaws in system was an inherent duty of a citizen. You seem to think that makes me a turn coat and a hater.

            I'll never blindly support anyone. Sorry I stepped on your flag with my comment.

            • by jcnnghm (538570)

              Calling for the death of NASA when our space budgets represents 80% of global space spending is delusional. Non-U.S. space budgets only represent about 5 percent of global space economic activity. With figures like that, you've got to be wishing that America will fail, because the odds sure seem to be pointing the other way. Wish in one hand, and shit in the other, and see which fills up first.

  • ..not just for NASA but for the "hydrogen-based economy," which could be nothing but a pipe-dream but for which a great deal of research is nevertheless ongoing.

    Hydrogen is not an easy gas to contain -- the atoms are so small they can penetrate most materials. Hydrogen is odorless and colorless, so leaks can go undetected. This can cause unknown problems. For exmaple, once released into the atmosphere hydrogen could increase greenhouse gasses due to uptake of hydroxyl radicals, which would otherwise
    • by theurge14 (820596)

      Easy, dye the hydrogen red, see the venting red gas, solve leak problem.

      • And/or give him artificial smell so you can smell the leak. The gas we have in metal tank in our kitchen is naturally odorless but they added a smell so you can know when it leaks.

        • by AI0867 (868277)

          Except that the dye/odorant will be composed of bigger molecules than the hydrogen, so many materials will filter out everything but the hydrogen.

  • by Anonymous Coward


    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

    Its the fucking hydrogen line from the storage tank to the engine. How hard was that to write?

    I tried to call NASA to see if they needed my 32ft aluminum ladder to replace the line but they said they had it covered.

    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      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

      Its the fucking hydrogen line from the storage tank to the engine. How hard was that to write?

      Actually, it's the line that runs from the tank to the outside, and matches up with a line on the pad to safely vent away boiled off hydrogen. But you're right, they didn't need to bury it in technobabble. Hell, this is the Shuttle, not Star Trek. They're

  • The manta of 'It's ready when it's ready' should always apply in scientific efforts like this -- it's a life and death gamble with millions of variables for the astronauts not to mention the far less important but still relevant raw costs of researching, constructing, testing the shuttle.

    It's worth the time to make sure everything is working right. Everyone who takes the risk to go into space and work on the tax-payer's dime deserves to come home to their family.

  • 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.

  • Broken, old rockets combined with a hyper-cautious NASA means we wont be seeing shuttle launches again.
  • Sounds like a job for MCGruber

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

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