CAPE CANAVERAL — A fuel leak was found in Discovery’s orbital engine system this week. However, it now appears that the leak has been stopped. NASA, every cautious, will continue leak checks on the orbiter. The leak appeared where propellant lines converge near the aft of the space shuttle in what is called the Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS).
Engineers worked into the evening hours to check the torque on several bolts located on a flange. The OMS pod in question was the one to the right of the shuttle’s tail. It turned out that the bolts were not loose and that the toxic monomethyl hydrazine had stopped leaking.
Mission managers met to determine what they should do next. If the leaking resumes then the flange seals will be replaced after draining the fuel tanks in the OMS pods as well as the lines located between them. Managers have about four days worked into the schedule in case something such as this takes place prior to launch. Currently, Discovery is scheduled to conduct her final launch on Nov. 1 at 4:40 p.m. EDT. The launch date will be confirmed on Oct. 25.
Discovery is set to launch the STS-133 crew to the International Space Station on an 11-day resupply mission to the orbiting laboratory. The payload for this mission includes the Permanent Multipurpose Module, Robonaut-2, the ExPRESS Logistics Carrier-4 as well as numerous spare parts.
*UPDATE* – NASA managers have decided to go ahead and replace the seals of the flange in question. While the leak has stopped, the cause could not be determined. As such, NASA has decided to exercise an over abundance of caution and replace the seals.