Hydrogen leak forces new delay to Discovery launch


CAPE CANAVERAL: A hydrogen leak in the external fuel tank of the space shuttle Discovery forced NASA to delay its final mission to the International Space Station Friday for the fifth time.
“The next possible launch attempt will be, at this point, not earlier than Monday,” said spokesman Allard Beutel, who earlier announced a minimum 48-hour postponement.
Mission managers planned to meet later in the day to make a decision on the timing of the next launch attempt, the US space agency said after a series of delays brought on by bad weather and equipment problems.
But the latest delay leaves little chance that the NASA will be able to send off the shuttle before the next launch window, which opens on December 1 and will stay open for a few days.
The leak was found about two hours after operations began to fill the external fuel tanks with liquid hydrogen ahead of the launch, which had been set for 3:04 pm (1904 GMT).
The hydrogen leak was detected at “an attachment point between the external tank and a 17-inch pipe that carries gaseous hydrogen safely away from Discovery to the flare stack, where it is burned off,” NASA said.
Heavy rain had scrubbed Thursday’s launch of Discovery, after electrical glitches that postponed the launch three times earlier in the week were resolved.
Discovery’s 11-day mission with its all-American crew of six will deliver a pressurized logistics module called Leonardo, which will be permanently attached to the space station to provide more storage space.