Tentative Launch Date Now March 11
After four weeks of delays stemming from a persistent issue with
fuel control valves, NASA appears nearly ready to launch the space
shuttle Discovery less than one week from now.
NASA Space Shuttle Program managers gave the go-ahead Wednesday
for the Flight Readiness Review, or FRR, following an in-depth
review of the testing and inspection data from space shuttle
Discovery's gaseous hydrogen flow control valves.
As ANN reported, those valves -- one for each
main engine -- control pressure inside the shuttle's external fuel
tank during launch, and were found damaged on the shuttle Endeavour
after it returned safely to Earth in November.
While engineers had already replaced those valves for Discovery,
NASA wanted to be as certain as possible a valve failure during
launch wouldn't lead to a catastrophic event. Managers concluded
Wednesday that technicians will not need to add reinforcement to
the area known as the elbow bend in the gaseous hydrogen pressure
line, which is located near the flow control valves in
Discovery’s engine plumbing, to prevent damage from just such
Following Friday's FRR, managers are expected to announce the
official launch date for Discovery’s STS-119 mission. For
planning purposes, launch is tentatively targeted for March 11 at
9:20 pm EDT. In anticipation of a launch date, the STS-119 crew has
entered quarantine at NASA Johnson Space Center's Astronaut
Quarantine Facility, where they will spend the day reviewing their
If the March 11 launch date is approved, Discovery's crew will
fly to Kennedy on Sunday in advance of the start of the countdown,
which would begin at 7 pm EST.
Commander Lee Archambault will lead Discovery's crew of seven,
along with Pilot Tony Antonelli, and Mission Specialists Joseph
Acaba, John Phillips, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold and Japan
Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata.
The Discovery crew members are set to fly the S6 truss segment
and install the final set of power-generating solar arrays to the
International Space Station. The S6 truss will complete the
backbone of the station and provide one-fourth of the total power
needed to support a crew of six.