Shuttle Discovery's final flight delayed

Washington DC
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The shuttle launch originally scheduled for 1 November has been pushed back by one day due to helium and nitrogen leaks on space shuttle Discovery, NASA says.

The flight, one of the last of the US shuttle programme, was rescheduled for 16:17 p.m. EDT on 2 November from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The leaks were discovered 29 October while pressurising tanks in Discovery's right-side orbital manoeuvring system pod, which controls the shuttle's orbital injection and modifies orbit. A helium line unexpectedly vented, eventually leading ground support crews to a ring that had come loose from a seal. The team ultimately decided to replace the ground and flight couplings on the system, which will take a day and delay other launch prep. A second small nitrogen line leak is also being repaired.

 

 © NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

NASA meteorologists are predicting a 70 percent chance of launch-worthy weather for the new date and time, the space agency says.

The mission - the 133rd for the shuttle programme and a record 38 for Discovery - will deliver a pressurized logistics module called Leonardo to the 10-year-old International Space Station. Leonardo, built by the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, will be permanently attached to the space station and used to transfer cargo to and from the station. The shuttle will also carry Robonaut 2, a 300lb (136kg) humanoid robot developed by NASA, making its first trip into space for testing.

Two space walks for maintenance work and component installation are scheduled during the 11-day mission, Discovery's last.