NASA officials have postponed the launch of shuttle Endeavour after
discovering a hydrogen gas leak a few hours before lift-off. Officials
say the same problem delayed a shuttle launch in March.
halted the launch countdown when they discovered the leak shortly after
midnight at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They said sensors on the
launch pad detected a significant amount of hydrogen gas escaping
during the fueling process.
Launch director Mike Leinbach said hydrogen is very volatile and can burn, even in small concentrations.
are very, very sensitive to hydrogen on the ground," he said. "[We want] to make
sure it is sealed properly at liftoff so we are not venting overboard
and possibly run into a situation where we did not have enough hydrogen
in the tank going uphill [entering orbit]."
Engineers are not expected to begin work on finding the leak until Sunday.
similar leak delayed the launch of shuttle Discovery three months ago.
NASA technicians replaced one connector to stop the leak, but officials
say they never uncovered the actual cause of the problem.
said it is unclear when the Endeavour mission can be rescheduled or how
long it will take engineers to figure out what is causing the leak and
how long it will take to fix it.
Chairman of the mission
management team, Mike Moses, said there are several other space
missions readying for launch in coming weeks.
the team is ready to go on the 17, we do not have the [launch] range
that day, so I would have to negotiate with the Atlas and the LRO
mission so we could have the range," he said.
LRO, or Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, is set to launch on the 17th to
study landing sites and other conditions for future manned missions to
The plan for shuttle Endeavour calls for a 16-day
mission to deliver the final segment of a new Japanese built lab and
other supplies to the International Space Station.