February 4, 2009

NASA Delays Discovery Launch

NASA announced on Tuesday that it would be pushing back its launch of the shuttle Discovery due to concerns about a flow control valve in the shuttle's main engines.

The launch will now occur no earlier than Feb. 19, according to NASA managers. The shuttle was slated to launch on Feb. 12.

The move to delay the launch comes after NASA noticed a valve in shuttle Endeavor, which flew in November, had been damaged. As a precaution, NASA decided to remove Discovery's valves for inspection and reinstallation.

"For the main engines to run correctly, the hydrogen tank has to be properly pressurized," said shuttle program manager John Shannon.

"We want to make sure we got this right," Shannon said. "This has important consequences for us."

NASA is also looking into the cause of excessive vibrations aboard the space station during an engine firing last month.

The space station's commander, Mike Fincke told flight controllers he'd never felt the complex shake so much, NASA's space station program manager, Mike Suffredini, told reporters.

"We had to go and check to see if we had caused any damage to the space station," said Suffredini.

Suffredini said that no structural damage occurred to any of the pieces, and the 15-year design lifetime of the station sustained no damage.

Discovery's STS-119 14-day mission to the International Space Station will deliver the station's fourth and final set of solar panels, completing the orbiting laboratory's truss, said NASA.

Also aboard Discovery will be a replacement distillation assembly for the station's Urine Processing Assembly that helps recycle urine to be used for drinking water.

STS-119 will be Discovery's 36th mission and marks the 28th shuttle flight dedicated to station assembly and maintenance, NASA said.


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