NASA Delays Shuttle Launch

NASA plans to delay the launch of Shuttle Discovery by one day. The delay is a result of some minor leaks found on the shuttle that will take extra time to repair. Laurie Johnson reports.

The leaks were discovered last night during scheduled shuttle inspections. The problem is with a coupling seal on a helium tank.

NASA Test Director Jeff Spalding characterizes the repairs as fairly routine.

"The big part of that whole process is the actual repressurization of those tanks, which is about two shifts or nearly 16 hours of work. The actual repairs and removal and replacement of those parts isn't very complicated and we've done it in the past. So it's fairly common when we have to go off and do these and it's a well-known process and the folks do a really good job at that. But that's kind of the thing that's driving us is the need to depressurize our tanks and then repressurize those."

Spalding says as a result of those changes, the launch is delayed by about 24 hours. That means Shuttle Discovery's 11-day mission would launch on Tuesday, which is also Election Day.

"I think we've done a lot to encourage the folks who work here at the space center to take the opportunity to do early voting and those types of things and make people aware of all those things to encourage them. Because it would be a challenge to be able to get out on a launch day and get out and get that voting done."

Spalding says at this point they have no reason to think the mission will be further delayed. But if the unforeseen happens, the launch window remains open until November 7th.

"I think we're really happy that we have the folks and the teams that are here to be able to handle these types of things. These types of challenges are not uncommon for the team to step up and do what needs to be done. We're going to fly this vehicle when it's ready to go."

Crews previously repaired fuel leaks on Discovery about a week ago. But Spalding says those earlier repairs are completely unrelated.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...