Space shuttle Discovery leaking fuel on the launch pad

October 19th, 2010 by Staff

Will a fuel leak delay the November launch of space shuttle Discovery?

It’s a question mission managers are trying to answer after a leak was found as the shuttle sits on the pad.

They are better known as the OMS pods — the tiny engines on the rear of the orbiter that allow it to change direction in orbit and later slow it down upon re-entry.

The leak was spotted in propellant lines that feed the engines with Monomethyl Hydrazine and an oxidizer. It’s a great fuel, but very dangerous to people.

The system passed all pressure checks done during testing on Discovery several weeks ago in its processing facility.

The leak was found last week, and now engineers must figure out if tightening the six bolts or the more detailed process of replacing the seals is necessary.

If that happens, they will have to don protective suits and drain the propellant lines. That would take longer, putting the Nov. 1 launch date in jeopardy.

Technicians performed the torque checks — or bolt tightening — Monday night. We should get a better idea of what they came up with Tuesday morning.

Mission managers always build in extra time during pre-launch for contingencies.

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