February shuttle launch still on despite hose leaks
NASA is maintaining its schedule for the next shuttle mission next month, despite leaks found in newly installed coolant hoses.
The space shuttle Endeavour is slated to launch Feb. 7, carrying the Tranquility module to the International Space Station.
Tranquility, also called Node 3, will provide life-support systems and living quarters to the station, topped with a seven-window hexagonal dome, called Cupola, that will be used to observe dockings and Canadarm2 operations.
During a prelaunch test conducted last week, high-pressure hoses that will carry ammonia coolant to Tranquility ruptured after the metal braiding on the hoses separated.
NASA manager Pete Hasbrook said a California contractor is reinforcing the four-metre hoses, which are longer than normal because of a change in location for Tranquility on the ISS.
Hasbrook said NASA recently decided to change the docking location of Tranquility at the last minute to give the station more flexibility in docking locations. The windowed dome was originally intended to point toward Earth. It will now be installed on the Unity module's port side.
NASA said an analysis of the hose rupture will take several days and its results will determine if there will be any impact on the mission.
Hasbrook said that if a solution to the hose problem isn't found, Tranquility may still go up in February, but hose improvements will have to wait until the next shuttle mission in March.
That would mean that equipment that needs to be cooled, such as life-support systems and the C.O.L.B.E.R.T. treadmill, won't be installed in Tranquility until March.
The shuttles' contribution to the construction of the space station is scheduled to conclude in September with Discovery's launch carrying the Leonardo multipurpose module. Further station modules, such as the European robotic arm and the Nauka laboratory, will be carried by Russian rockets.
Only five more shuttle launches are scheduled. After that, the fleet is slated to be retired.
With files from The Associated Press