Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Discovery proceeding toward April 5 target launch date

NASA executives will convene Friday at Kennedy Space Center to set an official launch date for the next shuttle mission, expected to be April 5.

"As of now, there's nothing that would preclude us from proceeding toward that target date," said Kyle Herring, a spokesman at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

Shuttle program managers met today to review data from weekend tests of helium regulators serving steering jets in the right, rear section of shuttle Discovery.

The tests confirmed that the regulators are working properly and should provide the redundancy necessary to fly despite a problem with a helium tank valve that is stuck open.

"The testing over the weekend gave (managers) even more confidence in the health of the regulators, which is the most important factor in that system," Herring said.

April 5 remains the target launch date for Discovery's 13-day mission to resupply the International Space Station.

Herring said the valve issue posed no concern for the safety of Discovery's seven-person crew and would not have prevented the shuttle from launching. However, it could threaten the shuttle's ability to carry out its full mission during failure scenarios considered unlikely.

KSC workers on Wednesday plan to proceed with the installation of the mission's cargo into Discovery's payload bay at launch pad 39A, an all-day operation starting at 8 a.m.

In addition to the helium valve issue, managers at Friday's Flight Readiness Review will also discuss a review of ceramic tile inserts, after an insert near an Endeavour crew cabin window came loose during the last mission.

Inserts used around payload bay door hinges can't be seen when the doors are open during flight. But Herring said those inserts are subject to lower aerodynamic pressure than the windows during an orbiter's atmospheric re-entry, reducing the likelihood that one would tear away and strike a critical area of the orbiter.

NASA will hold a press conference to announce Discovery's official launch date following the Friday review. Participants include Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations; John Shannon, shuttle program manager, and Pete Nickolenko, the launch director for Discovery's mission.

IMAGE NOTE: At Kennedy Space Center, the payload canister containing the multi-purpose logistics module Leonardo is nestled in the payload changeout room at Launch Pad 39A. Located on the pad's rotating service structure, the room is an enclosed, environmentally controlled area that supports payload delivery and servicing at the pad and attaches to the shuttle's cargo bay for vertical payload installation. Launch is targeted for April 5. Photo credit: NASA/Troy Cryder.

No comments: