Saturday, November 6, 2010
Faults being discovered in Discovery postpones launch again
It's name is Discovery and it has been described as the work horse of Nasa's space shuttle fleet. A good name indeed. But, for the past one week Nasa engineers who have preparing this shuttle for its flight to the International Space Station (ISS), have been discovering one fault after another resulting in its launch being constantly postponed. They have been discovering faults on Discovery.
This mission has been jinxed because it has been resked a number of times as a result of gas leaks, an electrical glitch and also bad weather. What a real disappointment for Commander Steve Lindsay and his crew members because all of them have repeatedly stated that they were eagerly looking forward to this flight since it was the last one for Discovery. They have all returned to Houston anxiously awaiting word about the next launch date.
Now, the current possible date for its launch has been fixed around 2 p.m. (IST) on November 30. But, again this is only tentative because Nasa engineers have stated that a lot has to be done before a final `go' is given for the launch.
If by chance the flight is once again postponed, the question then would be whether it will have any impact on the launch sked of the remaining two shuttle flights--Endeavour which is in February 2011 and Atlantis in June 2011. When will the much-publicised Robonaut-2 fly to the ISS ? If Discovery does not lift off on November 30, will it be launched later in 2011 or will it end its career once for all at the Smithsonian in Washington DC?
The launch ,after a series of postponements, was sked for Nov 4 or Nov 5. But, it was scrubbed because of a fuel leak and a seven-inch long crack on the shuttle's huge external tank. According to Space.Com.a well known space web site, Nasa discovered the crack during an inspection by Nasa technicians after finding a potentially dangerous liquid hydrogen fuel leak.
The latest problem shows that the shuttles have aged and finding replacement for the faulty components may not be that easy. Therefore, Nasa's decision to gradaully phase them out needs to be viewed in this context.
All the same if the status is green for a Nov 30 launch, let us wish Discovery God Speed. Let us hope that more faults are not discovered on Discovery.