February 14, 2009

NASA: Shuttle Discovery launch delayed

The next launch of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery has been pushed back a third time to allow for a review of shuttle fuel control valves, NASA officials say.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials said Friday the latest delay would give engineers more time to inspect the spacecraft's fuel control valves, an item that malfunctioned during the launch of the Endeavor shuttle last November, Space.com reported.

A chip from an Endeavor valve broke free during the 2008 launch and entered an external tank's plumbing lines without causing any problems during takeoff.

Discovery's next launch initially was to have been this past Thursday. It was first delayed one week, then again to Feb. 22. With the third delay, the shuttle now is to take off no earlier than Feb. 27.

Shuttle mission managers will use a Feb. 20 meeting to review Discovery's readiness for its International Space Station mission before approving a final launch date, Space.com reported.