Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Atlantis fuel tank being drained

Kennedy Space Center crews are wrapping up shuttle Atlantis' tanking test today by draining more than a half-million gallons of supercold propellants from the 15-story external tank.

Preliminary inspections showed no sign of damage to support beams lining the tank's midsection, which were the target of the test.

Starting Saturday, X-ray-like inspections will begin to look below the foam's surface for potential cracks on the side of the tank facing the orbiter.

Today's test did turn up what would have been a show-stopper on a real launch day, unrelated to the stringers.

A fuel valve on one of three shuttle main engines showed lower than normal temperatures, possibly signaling a leak of liquid hydrogen. The engine was isolated and the test proceeded.

NASA says Atlantis could still make a targeted July 8 liftoff if the valve needs to be replaced at the launch pad.

No comments: