Discovery Back On Track: NASAs New Day

    July 21, 2005

NASA said July 26th will be the launch date for STS 114 Space Shuttle Discovery. After a number of setbacks, including the most recent fuel sensor problem, NASA says they’re ready to attempt the launch and countdown will begin on Saturday with liftoff to occur at 10:39 a.m. EDT on Tuesday.

NASA crews worked around the clock in attempts to correct the problem with the engine cutoff sensor. The sensor is essentially a fuel gauge that tells the shuttle engines to cutoff when fuel levels reach a certain low point. Were the sensors to malfunction, they could cause irreparable damage to the shuttle engines.

NASA engineers believe the problem is in the electrical grounding of the sensor but have been unable to duplicate the problem in the only one of four sensors to experience the problem. The sensor had been giving them problems but they believe the problems had been rectified until just a couple of hours before the shuttle was slated launch on July 13th.

The engine cutoff sensors are mounted on the bottom of the external tank and the system failed the routine prelaunch check right before the launch.

Engineers think that if the problem recurs, the place it would happen is in an environmental test, in prelaunch condition when it originally occurred. NASA’s website said that during a briefing held after a mission managers meeting, NASA Space Shuttle Program Manager Bill Parsons said “We’ve all agreed that this work is doable, and that it all takes us to a launch on the 26th.”

It’s been two and half years since a shuttle flew because of the Columbia disaster back in 2003. A heat shield tile had been knocked loose by a piece of falling foam during takeoff and the shuttle flew apart over Texas during reentry. Unfortunately, all hand were lost.

NASA has been in the negative limelight ever since, having undergone many changes and a thorough inquiry by an independent group to help figure out what happened with the Columbia and to help prevent recurrences in the future with the 3 remaining vehicles in the shuttle fleet.

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.