Jun 17, 2009 | 1
Another hydrogen leak will keep the space shuttle Endeavour's crew on the ground for another month while NASA investigates the problem. The space agency scrubbed today's scheduled launch early this morning when a gaseous hydrogen leak was detected at the same location where a similar leak halted the shuttle's original June 13 launch.
"We're going to step back and figure out what the problem is and go fix it," Deputy Space Shuttle Program Manager LeRoy Cain said in a statement. Even if all goes well, NASA expects the shuttle to launch no earlier than July 11.
NASA engineers found the leak at the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP), which is the vent to the launch pad and the flare stack (or elevated chimney) where the vented hydrogen is burned off. (For pictures of what the GUCP looks like, visit GalaxyWire.net.) The venting system (pdf), located outside the shuttle's external fuel tank, is designed to carry excess hydrogen safely away from the launch pad as the Endeavor blasts off. During launch, the external fuel tank supplies the shuttle's main engines with liquid oxygen and hydrogen propellants.
Jun 15, 2009 | 2
As NASA engineers ponder how the shuttle Endeavor's gaseous hydrogen venting system started leaking and delayed the spacecraft's launch, the agency said it will try to put the shuttle in orbit on Wednesday at 5:40 a.m. ET. The shuttle's problems likewise push the launch of the moon-probing Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) back at least one day, to Thursday, June 18.
NASA believes a seal on the external fuel tank that was misaligned when it was coupled to one of the shuttle's engines caused the leak, NASA Shuttle Test Director Stephen Payne, said today during a press conference. "Our teams have been working very hard over the last couple of days to get this piece of equipment fixed," he said, adding, however, that the space agency was unsure of what's causing the misalignment.
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