Washington (AFP) July 1, 2009
The US space shuttle Endeavour has cleared a test for potentially harmful hydrogen gas leaks that twice delayed its high-profile launch, NASA said Wednesday.
Engineers from the US space agency seemed to have successfully repaired the external fuel tank of the shuttle, which is waiting to embark on its final mission to the International Space Station (ISS) with a seven-member crew.
To test Endeavour's flight worthiness its massive orange fuel tank was filled with 526,000 gallons (two million liters) of liquid hydrogen (80 percent) and liquid oxygen (20 percent), as takes place on the launch day.
During the test "no abnormal gaseous hydrogen leaks were detected," NASA said, which increases chances that Endeavour will be set for a launch on July 11 at 2339 GMT.
"There were absolutely no leak indications whatsoever noted on the two leak detectors," said launch director Pete Nickolenko.
"We'll continue to look at the data, and our next step is to move toward launch."
NASA officials were set to provide details on the new launch date and the test results later Wednesday.
After the tank was 98 percent full, it successfully entered "topping" mode -- the phase in which the June 13 and June 17 leaks had occurred -- where a valve at the top of the tank cycled to disperse excess gaseous hydrogen through a vent system that carries it safely away from the launch pad.
NASA has said a misaligned plate linking the hydrogen gas vent line with the external fuel tank had caused the leak, which was first detected during fueling.
Endeavour is set to travel on a 16-day voyage to install a platform on the ISS, allowing astronauts to conduct experiments in the vacuum of space, 350 kilometers (220 miles) above Earth's surface.
It is the last of three missions to assemble the Japanese Kibo laboratory aboard the orbiting space station.
The race is on to finish construction before NASA ends its shuttle missions in September 2010.
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NASA Holds Test To Verify Endeavour Tank Repairs
Cape Canaveral FL (SPX) Jun 30, 2009
NASA will conduct a tanking test at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, July 1, to ensure repairs to space shuttle Endeavour's external fuel tank were successful. The test will be shown live on NASA Television beginning at 7 a.m. EDT. It will be followed by a news conference at approximately 1 p.m. Briefing participants will be shuttle program Launch Integration ... read more
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