Technicians at the space agency say the cracks found in the space shuttle's fuel tank insulation can be repaired.
Officials at NASA said two cracks found in the space shuttle Discovery's
fuel tanks can be repaired while the shuttle sits on the launch pad. Agency
officials said they discovered cracks along the foam insulation lining of the
fuel tanks. The cracks (one is at least 20 inches long) were found while the
tank was being drained after Friday's failed launch attempt.
"This is something we've seen before, something we've repaired
before," Kyle Herring, a shuttle program spokesman at Johnson
in Houston, told
"They were found on the stringer, which is the composite aluminum ring
located on the top of the tank's intertank area," NASA reported. "The
cracks are approximately 9 inches long. Engineers are reviewing images of the
cracks to determine the best possible repair method, which would be done at
Launch Pad 39A."
Fox News reported
the hydrogen gas leak was
detected at around 7:30 a.m. ET Nov.
5 in a location known as the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP), which is
found at the end of the gaseous hydrogen vent arm on the fixed service
structure. It attaches to the shuttle's orange external tank. Technicians said
because the GUCP's connection to the tank is so important, it has sensors in
place to watch for hydrogen leaking, according to NASA.
Launch controllers track the readings from those sensors closely, and when
readings are outside the limits, the countdown is halted. After the external
tank is drained of its liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and cleared of excess
hydrogen, technicians can go out and make any repairs or modifications
necessary to fix the leak.
The shuttle's planned launch at the end of November, which was delayed after
a series of electrical failures and leaks, will be Discovery's last. When
Discovery heads to the International Space Station on its final mission, it
will be taking with it two key components-the Italian-built Permanent
Multipurpose Module (PMM) and Express Logistics Carrier 4 (ELC4)-that
will provide spare parts and storage capacity to the orbiting complex.
Discovery also will deliver Robonaut 2, which will become the first humanoid
robot in space.
While Discovery remains, at the moment, bound to the ground, NASA's John
C. Stennis Space
Center in Mississippi
conducted a successful test firing Wednesday of the liquid-fuel AJ26 engine
that will power the first stage of Orbital Sciences' Taurus II space launch
The AJ26 engine is designed to power the Taurus II space vehicle on flights
to low Earth orbit. The NASA-Orbital partnership was formed under the agency's
Commercial Orbital Transportation Services joint research and development
project. The company is under contract with NASA to provide eight cargo
missions to the space station through 2015.
The test was conducted by a joint operations team comprising Orbital,
Aerojet and Stennis engineers, with Stennis employees serving as test
conductors. The joint operations team and other NASA engineers will conduct an
in-depth data review of all subsystems in preparation for a 50-second hot-fire
acceptance test scheduled several weeks from now. A third hot-fire test at
Stennis also is planned to verify tuning of engine control valves.