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NASA Delays Start of Shuttle Discovery's Final Mission

Space Shuttle Discovery sits on its launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, 24 Oct 2010
Space Shuttle Discovery sits on its launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, 24 Oct 2010

The space shuttle Discovery is set to embark on its last mission in November, but leaks have forced NASA to delay the launch date.

Discovery had been set to blast off on its final mission November 1, but NASA announced Friday that it was postponing the launch by at least one day because of leaks.

Managers met Friday to discuss plans to fix helium and nitrogen leaks on the right side of the pressurization portion of the shuttle's orbital maneuvering system. The leaks are not related to a shuttle fuel leak that appeared a few weeks ago, which NASA says has been repaired.

Discovery will be carrying astronauts on an 11-day mission. It will be the 35th shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

During a series of launch preview briefings on October 21, Dan Hartman, the space station's integration and mission operations manager, said Discovery will deliver a final piece to the U.S. segment of the ISS, the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module.

"We've upgraded it and have it ready for its long duration stay on station," said Hartman. "It'll be our final module that we bring up to the International Space Station."

The new module will provide additional research and storage space.

And Discovery will deliver something else to the ISS, Robonaut2, the first humanoid robot to fly in space.

The U.S. space agency says Discovery has flown into space 38 times and spent 352 days in orbit.

NASA has only two shuttle launches left. The U.S. space agency is retiring its shuttle fleet next year and is encouraging the development of commercial human spaceflight vehicles.