News / Science & Technology

Space Shuttle Launch Delayed by Technical Problems

Space shuttle Endeavour is prepared for launch as the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) is rolled back at the launch pad, at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Apr 29 2011
Space shuttle Endeavour is prepared for launch as the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) is rolled back at the launch pad, at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Apr 29 2011
Greg Flakus

The last flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour has been delayed by technical problems with the new launch target being Monday at the earliest. President Obama was to have attended the Friday launch along with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, wife of Endeavour commander Mark Kelly. She is recuperating from a gunshot wound to the head suffered during a shooting rampage in her home district in Arizona more than three months ago. The delay was caused by a problem with the power units that allow the orbiter to maneuver as it enters space and as it returns to earth.

About three and a half hours before its scheduled liftoff, NASA managers called off the Endeavour launch because of a malfunction in one of the spacecraft's auxiliary power units, called APUs for short. Endeavour has three power units and needs all three functioning in order to launch. Initially engineers thought they might be able to fix the problem in a couple of days. Speaking to VOA by telephone from the Kennedy Space Center, NASA spokesperson Mike Curie explained the engineers' decision to add one more day.

"They typically look at things as a one or two day slip and, in this case, as they looked at it further they determined that it was going to take longer to resolve so they went ahead and decided it was going to take at least 72 hours," said Curie.

Curie says two faulty heaters in the APU caused the problem. The NASA spokesperson says the heaters are needed to keep the fluid, hydrazine, from freezing when the orbiter is in space.

"When in space, the shuttle is controlled by the thrusters, the jets that maneuver it around, so the APUs are turned off," he said. "However the hydrazine is still in the lines and the shuttle is subject to temperatures that drop as low as 250 degrees below zero when it is on the dark side of the earth. The hydrazine would freeze without these heaters and if the hydrazine freezes, the APUs would not work correctly for landing."

If technical problems or weather should delay the launch Monday, Curie says there are a few other opportunities to launch before May 4. At that time, the shuttle would have to make way for a previously scheduled Atlas rocket launch from the same area, and managers would not be able to prepare it for launch again before May eighth.

The delay is a big disappointment to the more than 700,000 people who have gathered along the central Florida Atlantic coastline near the Kennedy Space Center to witness what would be the next-to-last launch of a US space shuttle and the last flight of Endeavour, which has flown 24 previous missions in its 19 years of service.

On this mission Endeavour is to carry six crew members on a two-week visit to the International Space Station to deliver a $2-million astrophysics experimental device called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2. It will be used to study cosmic rays and dark matter, which scientists hope will provide new information on the workings of the universe. The mission also includes four space walks, this will be the last time astronauts will step out of a space shuttle as no space walks are programmed for the final shuttle mission now set for late June.

Congresswoman Giffords has witnessed two previous launches in which her husband flew, but this occasion was particularly important since she is still recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. Doctors who have been working with her at a rehabilitation facility here in Houston approved her trip to Florida. She has doctors and therapists with her in Florida and plans to stay there at least until Monday's scheduled launch date.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs