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When will the Discovery shuttle take off?

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-08-31

A problem with the hydrogen fuel tank valve of the Discovery shuttle forced Nasa to delay its launch until Saturday. The US space agency has already been prevented from launching Discovery because of stormy weather.

AFP - NASA on Thursday delayed the launch of the space shuttle Discovery until 0359 GMT Saturday so mission specialists could review tests on a faulty valve, the US space agency said.
  
The decision to make the launch attempt nearly 24 hours later than planned was issued after experts reviewed tests on a liquid hydrogen fill-and-drain valve that malfunctioned earlier in the week in Discovery's main propulsion system.
  
"It was announced at today's mission management team meeting that the teams need another 24 hours to review data from yesterday's fill and drain test before pressing forward with launch of space shuttle Discovery," NASA said.
  
"Liftoff now is targeted for 11:59 pm (Friday, 0359 GMT Saturday).
  
NASA earlier Thursday had begun the countdown to launch Discovery on Friday at 12:22 am (0422 GMT) with astronauts preparing for a 13-day mission to supply and repair the International Space Station (ISS).
  
Earlier tests seemed to indicate the hydrogen fuel tank valve was not broken, and that problems encountered when filling the shuttle's external fuel tank were due to false readings.
  
But NASA then put back the launch almost 24 hours after a review of the results.
  
The launch, if it goes ahead, would be NASA's fourth scheduled attempt after liftoff was also delayed Wednesday and thunderstorms led NASA officials to scrub the first bid early Tuesday.
  
At the space station, a key task during the three scheduled spacewalks on Discovery's mission will be to replace an old liquid ammonia coolant tank, which will be substituted with a new, 1,760-pound (800-kilogram) replacement.
  
The new freezer will store samples of blood, urine and other materials that will eventually be taken back for studies on the effects of zero-gravity.
  
The astronauts were also to retrieve experimental equipment from outside the ISS and return it to Earth for processing.
  
A treadmill named after popular US comedy talk show host Stephen Colbert will be the second aboard the ISS. Exercise is important for astronauts spending long periods of time in space, because zero-gravity can result in muscle atrophy.
  
The Discovery will bring astronaut Nicole Stott to take the place aboard the ISS of Tim Kopra, who will ride the shuttle back to Earth.
  
The shuttle commander is to be veteran astronaut Rick "C.J." Sturckow. Other astronauts on the crew include pilot Kevin Ford and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, Jose Hernandez, John "Danny" Olivas and Christer Fuglesang of Sweden.
  
Once the Discovery mission is complete, just six more shuttle flights remain before NASA's three shuttles are retired in September 2010.
  
The ISS is a project jointly run by 16 countries at a cost of 100 billion dollars -- largely financed by the United States.

Date created : 2009-08-27

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