With three launch delays due to technical problems and bad weather, the shuttle Discovery was grounded again Friday, due to a potentially dangerous leak of hydrogen gas. The delay has pushed the supply mission to the International Space Station out to Nov. 30 or later.
Investigating the hydrogen gas leak coming from a 7-inch vent line attached to the shuttle Discovery’s external tank, engineers discovered a large crack in the protective foam insulation on the side of the tank facing the shuttle, which would also have resulted in a delayed launch.
The leak developed during fueling for the launch, sensors near the vent line indicated a “significant” leak of gaseous hydrogen concentrations, with sensors reading their maximum.
Leaks in the vent line have delayed previous lanuches in 2009, extensive corrective actions were taken, and engineers believed that the problem was resolved.
The next launch window opens November 30.
The Discovery’s crew, commander Steven Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe, Michael Barratt, Nicole Stott, and spacewalkers Timothy Kopra Alvin Drew–broke quarantine and flew back to the Johnson Space Center in Houston after the delay was announced.
The next launch window opens November 30 and closes December 5 or 6.