This week at Cape Canaveral NASA continued to work toward getting space shuttle Discovery off on its final mission. NASA conducted a tanking test Friday morning. NASA still hopes to launch Discovery on Feb. 3, 2011.
NASA conducts tanking test on Discovery
Although it will be some time before the results, NASA engineers tested the repairs that they have done to Discovery’s external tank (ET). The first crack was discovered shortly after its Nov. 5 launch was scrubbed. When technicians dug deeper – they discovered a second crack – and then a third. NASA began work to repair both the cause of the scrub (a leak on the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate or GUCP) as well as the cracks.
NASA used what is known as a “doubler” to reinforce the affected area. It then placed some 89 sensors around the intertank region where the cracks were discovered. This is the banded middle section between the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen tanks. Normally this section is lighter in color than the rest of the tank.
In the next few days NASA will roll Discovery back to the Vehicle Assembly Building where the ET will undergo X-ray scans and other tests to see how the tank fared. When the tank is filled with these super-cold liquids the ET can shrink by as much as an inch. It still remains to be seen if Discovery can make its February launch window.