Discovery Refuels in Preparation for Launch Today

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Satdude

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Discovery Refuels in Preparation for Launch Today

News (26.07.05)

NASA loaded hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel onto Discovery, as it prepared to launch the first shuttle since Columbia was destroyed on its return to Earth two years ago, killing its crew of seven.

Discovery's seven-person crew, led by Commander Eileen Collins will fly to the International Space Station on a 12-day mission during which they will carry out repairs, test new equipment, and deliver supplies. The original launch date was set for July 13; this was delayed when a faulty sensor was found in the craft's external fuel tank.

With the launch now planned from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:39 a.m. Miami time today, engineers began loading more than 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen at about 1 a.m., NASA spokesman Martin Jensen said in a telephone interview.

The refueling is going well, and we haven't had any issues at this point,'' Jensen said from the space center. While most of the fuel had been loaded already, ``we continually add propellant into the tanks right up until launch,'' he said.

While all four fuel gauges are now working, if the same problem recurs on the same sensor, one of four, NASA will probably go ahead with the launch, Jensen said.

If it sent the same signal, we're confident enough that we know the problem, and we're okay going with three or four sensors,'' he said.
If one of the other sensors sends a faulty signal, or if there was some other reading or something in the wiring, we'll scrub.''

Columbia Destroyed

Collins, the first woman to lead a shuttle, and her crew will have an input into the decision to proceed with launch should there be a problem, Jensen said.

They have been involved in the process -- they have just as much say as anyone,'' he said.

Today's launch is a step toward President George W. Bush's space plan that includes sending astronauts back to the moon as early as 2015, as well as undertaking human missions to Mars as precursors to trips to other parts of the solar system.

Columbia was destroyed on Feb. 1, 2003, when atmospheric gases as hot as 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius) streamed into the spacecraft through a hole punched in the left wing by a chunk of insulating foam that fell from its external fuel tank during takeoff.

NASA's three remaining orbiters have been grounded since the Columbia accident and the U.S. agency has relied on Russia to take supplies and crews to the space station.

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