Feeds

Fuel-cell problems ground Shuttle

Any bets on a Friday launch?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

NASA has delayed launching the Shuttle Atlantis before Friday because of problems with one of the craft's fuel cells.

It was initially put off until Thursday, but engineers said they need more time to work out how serious the problem is.

When the mission managers switched the fuel cells on, one malfunction caused a voltage spike in the other two. For a launch all three must be working, NASA says, but reports vary as to what this means for Atlantis.

"The launch rules say you need to have three good, operating fuel cells," NASA spokesman Bruce Buckingham told the BBC. "We're going to see if it's something that's a real problem or whether it's something we can rectify."

However, in the New York Times, shuttle program director N Wayne Hale Jr said that under the rules the Shuttle could launch without the problem being fixed, but that engineers wanted to understand it properly.

Although it is working well enough to launch, if it fails in flight, the mission would have to be ended early, the paper reports.

If the cell has to be replaced, NASA will miss the current launch window. The procedure normally takes about a week.

Adding to an already complicated situation is the fact that NASA doesn't know exactly how the fuel cell works, ABC reports.

"The vendor sold us the thing [in 1976] and didn't exactly tell us how it works, amazing as that might be," Hale said*.

Friday is the last possible launch date before scheduling conflicts (with the planned Russian visit to the International Space Station) will force NASA to wait until late October before trying again. ®

*Bootnote: Our thanks to reader Roger Costello for suggesting that NASA might want to take a look at this explanatory document. Published by...er...NASA.

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.