Fri, Apr 14, 2006
...But What If Another Problem Is Found?
In what sounds like a little like the story of the man who
refused to go to the doctor ("if I go, he may find there's
something wrong with me"), NASA engineers are currently mulling
over whether to conduct a test fueling of the space shuttle
Discovery's external fuel tank.
The test -- which would be held in the first part of June, about
one month before the scheduled July 1 launch of Discovery -- would
determine whether the four fuel level sensors NASA scientists
replaced last month are now working properly.
NASA made the decision to replace the old
sensors last month, after one of the sensors gave false
The decision to replace the sensors delayed the shuttle's launch
from May to its current July date. There is enough time in the
current schedule to accommodate the test, officials said, but
another sensor swap would delay Discovery's liftoff even more.
For the test, more than a half-million gallons of supercooled
liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen would be pumped into the 15-story
tank, NASA officials said Wednesday. Scientists would then analyze
whether the sensors -- which function much as an automobile's fuel
gauge does -- are giving accurate readings of the fuel levels in
Should the fuel sensors not work properly at launch, the result
could be the premature shutdown of the shuttle's main engines...
or, a longer-than-expected fuel burn. Either scenario could be
Kyle Herring, a spokesman for NASA's Johnson Space Center in
Houston, told Florida Today that engineers have been asked to draw
up plans for the fueling test -- but that managers still have not
made a final decision on whether to carry it out or not.
A decision on the test is expected shortly.
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