On Wednesday I reported that NASA was looking into a bent coolant hose on the space shuttle Atlantis. They weren’t sure if this might cause a potential launch delay while it was repaired. Shuttle managers met over the weekend, and decided that it wasn’t enough of a problem to delay the launch.
The problem is with one of the shuttle’s four braided hoses that carry the coolant needed to dissipate heat generated while in space. During a routine inspection, workers noticed that this hose had a bit of a kink in it.
The worry is that the hose could be bent further, or even snapped when the shuttle’s payload bays are closed up Sunday night to prepare for next week’s launch. In order to prevent a problem, a worker will use a long pole with a hook to guide the hose into its retraction box with the bays are closed up. Assuming that goes as planned, the shuttle’s launch won’t be delayed.
And even if the hose does break while the shuttle’s in orbit, it’s not a huge problem, according to NASA. There are a total of 4 of these hoses on Atlantis, and it can get by with the remaining ones.
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With that worry out of the way, Atlantis is still scheduled for its Thursday launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. The shuttle is carrying Europe’s main contribution to the International Space Station: the Columbus science lab. During their time in space, the astronauts will perform three spacewalks to install the laboratory and perform some experiments.
The astronaut crew arrived in Florida today, and the countdown is expected to begin later Monday afternoon. The weather might be a problem, however. Meteorologists are predicting that there’s only a 40% chance of suitable weather on launch day. Friday should be better, though. Even if rain and clouds hold back the launch, there’s an 80% chance the shuttle will be able to lift off at the end of the week.
NASA has already canceled two launch attempts back in December because of problems with the shuttle’s fuel tank sensors. With an already crowded launch schedule, this additional delay pushes back the rest of the shuttle launches.
Original Source: NASA Status Report