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Stubborn Shuttle Discovery Refuses to Launch on Final Mission

A gorgeous but stubborn Discovery still on the launchpad. Credit: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

UPDATE: The launch has now been delayed until Nov. 30, as a crack was found in the foam on Discovery’s external tank after the fuel was offloaded this morning. Engineers posting on Twitter said the hydrogen leak this morning may have been a lucky break, as the crack had ice underneath and may have easily come off during launch. The crack was not seen previously.

It seems as through space shuttle Discovery keeps coming up with excuses to delay the launch of her final mission to space, and the launch pad facilities and weather are conspiring along with her. Originally scheduled to launch on Nov. 1, this latest delay comes from a hydrogen leak in a vent arm attached to the shuttle’s external tank. The work required will push back any further launch attempt until at least Monday, Nov. 8. That is the last day available in the current launch window, and if it doesn’t launch then the window closes until Nov. 30, due to unfavorable sun angles for when the shuttle would be docked to ISS.

This is not the first time a leak has occurred in the vent arm, but this time the leak was “substantial” said Launch Director Mike Leinbach.

“The signature of the leak is similar to what we’ve seen in the past when we’ve had leaks there, although the magnitude was higher this time and it occurred earlier in our tanking process,” he said.

Discovery’s 11-day mission to the International Space Station will bring a new storage module and the first humanoid robot, Robonaut 2, or R2 to the station. The Nov. 8 launch time is now scheduled for 12:53 Eastern STANDARD Time (17:53 UT).

Previous delays have stemmed from leaks in different systems, an electrical glitch and rainy, windy weather.

The launch scrubs have disappointed participants of the launch Tweet-up, where NASA allows Twitterers a chance to view a launch from Kennedy Space Center. While some of the participants are waiting out the delays, most have had to return home. This marks the first time there has been a launch delay when NASA has held a Tweet-up for a shuttle liftoff.

If you are needing to see a launch, try keeping an eye on a Delta II rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, with the COSMO Earth observing satellite. This rocket, too has had its share of delays, but is now slated for launch on Friday, Nov. 5 at 10:20 pm EDT (7:20 pm PDT).

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • RapidEye November 8, 2010, 7:02 AM

    Yeah – was bummed. We drove down there Thur night to try and catch the Fri window that looked promising, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Spent friday touring the KSC with my 10yr daughter – we had fun anyway.

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