NASA: Space Shuttle Discovery Launch Pushed to December 3

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The launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery will happen no earlier than December 3, NASA announced Friday.

If conditions are adequate, the shuttle will depart at 2:52am Eastern time that day, the agency said. Technicians have been working to repair cracks and a hydrogen leak that pushed a planned November 5 launch to at least November 30. That has now been extended an additional three days. NASA's Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) will review those repairs at a November 24 meeting, and if everything is on track, a launch status briefing with senior NASA management will be held on November 29.

In examining the shuttle, cracks have been uncovered on the its stringers, which are 21-foot-long support beams. On Friday, NASA said technicians "installed new sections of metal, called 'doublers' because they are twice as thick as the original stringer metal, to replace the two cracked stringers on space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank."

Discovery Shuttle crack

"Caps at the end of the stringers will be installed this morning," NASA continued. "Primer application for the replacement foam insulation also will begin this morning." Click right for a larger image of the crack in the foam.

Leaks and weather issues delayed the shuttle launch several times earlier this month. The shuttle was initially scheduled to launch on Monday, November 1, but helium and nitrogen leaks in the pressurization portion of space shuttle pushed that to Tuesday. When repairs related to those leaks lasted longer than expected, NASA again delayed the launch to Wednesday. Electrical issues prevented launch on that day, however, while the Cape Canaveral weather marred a Thursday launch. They hydrogen gas leak and cracks found on Friday, meanwhile, then required technicians to delay the launch until at least November 30.

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