NASA aims for Sunday launch of space shuttle

Cape Canaveral (FL) – NASA today said that it will attempt to send Discovery on its STS-119 mission late Sunday. However, the actual launch will depend on tests of a previously discovered hydrogen leak as well as weather conditions.

NASA officials appeared confident on Friday that the space shuttle can fly into space after several delays. Discovery’s 13-day STS-119 mission was originally scheduled to begin on February 12. To fix a gaseous hydrogen leak found during Wednesday’s launch attempt, NASA engineers and workers are currently replacing Discovery’s hydrogen line hookup and are installing new seals.

Weather is another variable determining if Discovery will launch on Sunday at 7:43 pm EDT, but NASA believes that there is an 80% chance that weather conditions will allow the shuttle to lift off.  The organization’s Mission Management Team will meet on Saturday at 1 pm EDT to review the data and the progress of the teams, and make a final determination on the launch.
STS-119 was delayed several times as NASA said it required time to understand what caused the damage to a flow control valve on Discovery’s sister ship, Endeavour, during its November 2008 flight.  The shuttle’s three flow control valves, one for each space shuttle main engine, channel gaseous hydrogen from the engines through the main propulsion system and back to the external fuel tank.
This flow regulation maintains the tank’s structural integrity and delivers liquid hydrogen to the engines at the correct pressure.

Engineers said they had resolved the problem earlier this month.