Science News

NASA retargets Discovery launch for February 27

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) -- NASA managers on Friday delayed for a third time the launch date for space shuttle Discovery, now scheduled to lift off February 27 on an International Space Station construction mission.

Initially slated for launch this week, NASA wanted more time to review analysis and test results of potentially troublesome valves needed to keep the shuttle’s fuel tank properly pressurized during the 8.5-minute ride into space.

“More time was needed to complete analysis and testing,” said Allard Beutel, a spokesman with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The shuttle will be carting the last set of U.S.-built solar wing panels to bring the orbiting complex up to full power. The shuttle crew includes Japan’s Koichi Wakata, who will swap places with returning space station flight engineer Sandra Magnus.

Wakata will be the first astronaut from Japan, one of 16 countries partnered in the project, to become a member of the live-aboard station crew.

NASA is preparing to expand the station’s full-time crew from three to six astronauts as it completes construction of the $100 billion outpost. Eight more flights to the station remain before the space shuttles are retired in 2010.

NASA also plans a final servicing call to the Hubble Space Telescope in May.

Reported by Irene Klotz at Cape Canaveral; editing by Todd Eastham