Feeds

Shuttle Discovery further delayed by leaky boil-off umbilical

Veteran ship wreathed in explosive gas

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
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?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.