Feeds

Shuttle Discovery further delayed by leaky boil-off umbilical

Veteran ship wreathed in explosive gas

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

NASA's several-times-delayed bid to launch space shuttle Discovery on its final planned mission - a trip delivering supplies and parts to the International Space Station - has been scrubbed again following a "significant" leak in a hydrogen boil-off safety flare stack pipe.

The leaky Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP) attached to shuttle Discovery's last fuel tank. Credit: NASA

The factory which made this was shutting down with massive job losses.

According to a NASA statement issued earlier this afternoon, the earliest that Discovery can now launch following repairs to the leaky Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP) is Monday. That would be the last chance remaining in the present orbital launch window: should no launch occur on Monday, the next window runs from the 30 November to 5 December.

The faulty GUCP is an assembly which connects the shuttle's large orange external fuel drop-tank to a massive 17-inch pipe that carries away gaseous hydrogen which has boiled off from the cryogenic liquid in the tank. If the hydrogen were allowed to escape and mix with air, it would become a major explosion risk: hence it is piped away safely and burned off in a flare stack clear of the pad. The GUCP is a bit more complicated than an ordinary plug for a deadly explosive rocketfuel gas pipe, however, as it needs to release the umbilical easily, reliably and without human assistance at launch time.

Shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach said that the "significant" hydrogen GUCP leak was similar to previous snags occurring on other shuttle launches, though he admitted that today's was "higher in magnitude and occurred earlier in the fuelling process".

NASA reports that the colossal tank is now being drained of fuels and will then need to be "inerted" - flushed through with helium - for 20 hours before technicians can get started on fixing the GUCP at the weekend. Depending on what they can achieve, a go or no-go decision will be made regarding a Monday launch attempt on Saturday.

As and when Discovery finally flies, it will be the veteran ship's 39th and final planned mission. The shuttle is loaded with various supplies, parts and experiments for the ISS, including a new pressurised hab module, a humanoid robotic torso intended for maintenance work and a complement of experimental mice participating in studies of bizarre space plague effects. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
Major cyber attack hits Norwegian oil industry
Statoil, the gas giant behind the Scandie social miracle, targeted
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.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
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.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?