Bolt Problem Scraps Shuttle Launch
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ NASA called off Thursday night’s launch of space shuttle Discovery because of last-minute concerns over a bolt on the external fuel tank.
The launch was bumped to Friday night at the earliest.
While watching a videotape of Atlantis’ Sept. 8 launch on Wednesday, engineers noticed that one of the bolts between Atlantis and the external fuel tank did not separate cleanly eight minutes into the flight.
Engineers reviewed the video again Thursday but could not determine what happened. As a result, the countdown was halted, just as fueling was to begin. The astronauts had not yet boarded the shuttle.
``They’re not comfortable with what they saw. Safety is our first concern,″ said NASA spokesman David Steitz.
Discovery’s destination, on this 100th voyage of the space shuttle, is the international space station.
Discovery is loaded with two new pieces for the space station, a girderlike truss and a docking port for future shuttle visits.
The 18,000-pound truss contains antennas and motion-control gyroscopes. The seven-member shuttle crew will use the shuttle robot arm to attach the truss and docking port to the space station. The astronauts will go out on four back-to-back spacewalks to wire up the pieces.
Astronauts have not hooked up major pieces to the space station since the initial components were launched in 1998. The last three shuttle visits were essentially supply runs.
Once Discovery’s 11-day mission is completed, the space station’s first permanent crew will be able to move in.
NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd and two Russian cosmonauts are scheduled to lift off from Kazakstan on Oct. 30. They will spend four months aboard the space station before returning to Earth via the space shuttle. A new three-person crew will take their place.
Shepherd and his crewmates are in Russia preparing for their flight.
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