Shuttle: no launch this week, engineers still baffled

Some optimism remains

NASA says the Shuttle Discovery will not launch before 26 July, as the space agency's engineers continue their investigation into the misbehaving fuel gauge that grounded the Shuttle again, last week.

The return to flight was cancelled after a liquid hydrogen low-level fuel sensor circuit failed a routine pre-launch test. It showed a fuel tank to be nearly empty, when in fact it was nearly full. This could cause the engines to cut out at the wrong point of the Shuttle's ascent, mission controllers explained, which could be catastrophic.

Engineers are still working through trouble-shooting routines, NASA says, and have yet to identify the cause of the failure. However, mission managers are still working to get Discovery off the ground within the current launch window, which closes on 31 July.

If the remaining tests, which should be completed today, are inconclusive, NASA says it might just reload the fuel tanks and see if the sensor circuit works. This could be run as another test, or as a prelude to a launch. ®

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