Feeds

NASA aims for 2 Jan Atlantis launch

Further tests on pesky fuel tank sensors

The Power of One Infographic

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
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
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
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
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

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
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.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
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.