Thursday, March 12, 2009

NASA has decided to postpone the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery, mission STS-119, for at least four more days. The further delay of launch was due to a hydrogen fuel leak. Discovery was previously set to liftoff tonight at 9:20 p.m. (EDT).

“Space shuttle Discovery’s launch to the International Space Station (ISS) now is targeted for no earlier than March 15. Liftoff on March 15 would be at 7:43 p.m. EDT. The exact launch date is dependent on the work necessary to repair the problem,” said NASA in a statement on their website.

NASA said during a press conference today that the leak is likely being caused by a hardware issue, later announced to be a suspect connector on the gaseous vent line attached to the shuttle’s external tank. Troubleshooting the problem is scheduled to begin on March 12.

Discovery’s original proposed launch was for July of 2008. Later it was changed to December 4, 2008. The next change scheduled the liftoff date for February 12, 2009. It was then delayed until February 27, but was then delayed indefinitely on February 20 after NASA discovered an issue with the hydrogen control valves.

The current scheduled mission is set to fly the Integrated Truss Structure segment to the ISS, and to install the final set of power-generating solar arrays . The arrays consist of two 115-foot-long arrays, for a total span of 240 feet, including the equipment that connects the two halves and allows them to twist as they track the sun. Altogether, the four sets of arrays can generate 84 to 120 kilowatts of electricity – enough to provide power for more than 40 average homes.

Commander Lee Archambault will lead Discovery’s crew of seven, along with Pilot Tony Antonelli, and Mission Specialists Joseph Acaba, John Phillips, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata.