Feeds

NASA aims for 2 Jan Atlantis launch

Further tests on pesky fuel tank sensors

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

NASA will next week fill the fuel tanks of space shuttle Atlantis for a third time, in an attempt to resolve sensor glitches which have led to two aborted launches.

A first scheduled lift-off was last week cancelled due to the failure of two of the four sensors which monitor liquid hydrogen levels in the vessel's fuel tank. A second slated attempt on Sunday to get Atlantis into orbit fell victim to the same problem.

Of the first incident, NASA explained: "On Thursday morning, two of the four engine cutoff, or ECO, sensors inside the liquid hydrogen section of the tank failed a routine prelaunch check. Following the launch postponement, the tank's liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen were drained.

"While the tank was being emptied, engineers monitored and collected data on the liquid hydrogen sensors that failed. During that process, another sensor gave a false reading, indicating that the tank was 'wet', when it was dry."

NASA's caution is based on the fact that faulty sensors could allow the shuttle's liquid hydrogen tanks to "run dry", potentially triggering a catastrophic explosion.

The remedial plan, according to Reuters, is to "splice jumper cables into about 100 feet of wiring that runs between fuel sensors in the shuttle's tank and the ship's engine compartment". These cables will be hooked up to instruments to monitor the electrical circuits, and hopefully locate the problem.

Programme manager Wayne Hale told reporters: "We think we have a high degree of confidence of pinpointing the location where we're having our problem."

If he's right, NASA has rescheduled Atlantis for a 2 January launch to carry the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory to the ISS. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
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?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
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.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.