NASA delays Shuttle Discovery launch for fourth time
Shuttle Discovery was slotted to launch at some point this week after three previous delays, but technical malfunctions continue to ground the mission.
Engineers debated Discovery's fate over a 13-hour meeting on Friday. They came to the conclusion that three hydrogen fuel valves causing problems of late were still too much of a concern to allow a launch.
The three valves located in the shuttle engine compartment are under higher scrutiny after one recently cracked during the shuttle's latest flight. NASA wants to be 100% positive that the seven-man Discovery crew will be safe if a valve breaks again. The valves are responsible for directing gaseous hydrogen into the shuttle's fuel tank.
With this fourth delay, NASA is now expecting a mid-March launch. If there was to be yet another delay in March, Discovery will have to wait its turn as a Russian Soyuz craft is scheduled for a late March departure. A March Discovery delay, therefore, would result in an April 6th launch, at the earliest.
NASA's primary concern, understandably, is for the safety of its seven-passenger crew and says launch dates and schedules wont interfere with that priority.
"We were not driven by schedule pressure and did the right thing. When we fly, we want to do so with full confidence."