Launch of Discovery shuttle put off to Feb 27

February 16th, 2009 - 6:28 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 16 (DPA) NASA is eyeing Feb 27 as the earliest possible date for launch of the next shuttle mission Discovery, a postponement blamed on worries over the possibility that pieces of a faulty fuel valve could strike the shuttle on takeoff.

In a statement over the weekend, NASA said it would give an update on plans next Friday.

Discovery was originally aiming for a Feb 12 launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, a date that had been put back to Feb 19.

In November, there were problems with the shuttle Endeavour mission when damage occurred to one of three flow control valves that channel gaseous hydrogen from the main engines to the external fuel tank, NASA said late Friday.

“The engineering teams have performed a tremendous amount of work, including computer modelling and actual tests to determine the consequences if a piece of a valve were to break off and strike shuttle and external fuel tank components,” NASA said. “More time was needed to complete analyses and testing necessary to fly safely.”

Discovery’s flight is the first of five planned shuttle flights this year and is to focus on construction at the International Space Station with the installation of a final pair of solar panels.

NASA said that the Discovery delays were not expected to affect launch dates of the subsequent missions.

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