Shuttle launch postponed

By Phil Plait | June 13, 2009 9:30 am

Endeavour was supposed to launch today, but "a leak associated with the hydrogen venting system" has delayed the flight until at least June 17. Hydrogen tends to blow up, so engineers are being cautious. This is a frequent occurrence with the Shuttle, so I’m not worried about accidents, but it is a bummer.

I’ll note that June 17 is when the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is due to launch, so one of them will have to be moved. NASA engineers meet on Sunday to figure that bit out, and NASA should announce plans shortly thereafter.

In cooler news, the commander of this mission, Mark Polansky, has a Twitter account! So those of you on Twitter can follow him when he gets a chance to tweet from space. I use Twitter to cover launches and space news as well, and I’ll have more info there when I hear it.


Comments (22)

Links to this Post

  1. In Other Words | June 14, 2009
  1. Jon Niehof

    Last I heard LRO had priority over the shuttle, since its launch window is more finicky. Sounds like they’re checking over the options though.

  2. DrFlimmer

    It’s all my fault. I way busy at the supposed launch time today and said yesterday that I wish it should be scrubbed…. I didn’t know I had such a power – I should run for the 1-million-bucks-prize ūüėÄ

    But I wonder why this happens again. It’s the same fault that grounded Discovery in March. I thought they had fixed it and here it cracks again. Strange….

  3. Sili

    Why on Earth does one have to wait for the other?

  4. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Sili, why did you guess it was an earthly and not a spacey problem? In any case, despite the odds, you’re right:

    “Mission managers plan to meet later this weekend to discuss troubleshooting and to assess their options, including negotiations with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project and the Air Force Eastern Range that provides telemetry and tracking support for all rockets launched from Florida.

    “Obviously, the 17th is a range problem, there’s a conflict out there with LRO/LCROSS,” said Mike Moses, shuttle integration manager at the Kennedy Space Center. “We haven’t even begun to work that yet. … We’ll start those negotiations tomorrow and see where we get, both with the Range and with the NASA payload.” ” [HT: Spaceflight Now. Well, or maybe later.]

  5. Greg in Austin


    If I had to guess, I’d say there are safety concerns when launching two rockets on the same day, especially when one of those has astronauts aboard. It could also be a launch control room issue – you may have completely different teams of people to coordinate, and they can’t all be there at the same time. Then there’s the launch windows for getting into orbit, and so on.

    In short, they don’t normally launch multiple rockets on the same day.


  6. Michelle

    Oh boy, really?
    You know it’s the first time I’m sick of a launch. See, there’s a french canadian onboard, and in all our self-centeredness, the medias here are doing special coverages, and pumping it big. Now, should it be ANY OTHER launch, say… the one that fixed Hubble just now, they wouldn’t even bother dropping more than a few words about it. It just wasn’t IMPORTANT enough for them.

    It’s all good that they speak of it, of course… But it feels so… inflated ego, right?

  7. Michelle,
    I think one of the reasons that our Canadian media is so interested is because this is also the first time two Canadians will be in space at the same time, plus the fact that this will be the first time so many people have been in space at one time. Hey, if they want to pump this for all it’s worth, I’m all for it. Maybe it will get more young people excited about space!

  8. Ed Davies

    I believe it takes time (quiet a few hours) to switch the range telemetry equipment over from dealing with one vehicle to the other.

  9. Gavin Flower

    @Michael L

    From somewhere recently, I read that this is the first time so many people will be at the International space station, but that there had been 13 people in space before – probably when the Russian space station Mir was in orbit.

  10. This is the video about other space shuttle launch aborts which happened in the last seconds before lift off:

  11. @Gavin:
    You’re correct. It is the record or will be the record for the largest gathering of humans at the ISS!

  12. Stone Age Scientist

    Hi Phil,

    On a non-sequiturial subject here: a French dam turned into a sundial in honor of Galileo for this year 2009, the Year of Astronomy.

  13. DLC

    Sleeping Gas: of course not, as there were no apollo landings, it’s all fake!
    Um… of course, they could just simulate flying over a model of a landing site and . . .
    Would it matter to Lunar landing conspiracy theorists if they *did* do a flyby of the landing sites ?

  14. Charles Boyer

    Odd that this is more or less the same problem that NASA had with a recent Shuttle launch.

  15. Moonfan

    Hi Phil,

    Have you seen the trailer for Moon starring Sam Rockwell? They recently screened it at Nasa.

    This is a link to the HD version on Youtube, figured you might be interested.

  16. At least this isn’t one of those times that woodpeckers were giving them grief, though there are some who would prefer that NASA itself instead of just the shuttles be scrapped!

  17. Matthew Ota

    Looks like the launch will be rescheduled for next Saturday. LRO launches on Wednesday

  18. Sili

    Thanks for the good replies.

    I hadn’t an inkling the same hardware and personelle would be involved in two so different missions.

    I just thought it didn’t make sense since they’re not using the same launchpad. (And I didn’t think it could be a spacey problem, since the Moon and the ISS are in … somewhat different orbits.)

  19. BigBob

    Mark Polansky on Twitter! Excellent. I see he’s sent a few tweets already, and explained how they will publish his on-orbit tweets despite the lack of live access. Cool.

  20. Buzz Parsec

    It’s not the launch pad or the launch control rooms at Cape Canaveral or the people working on the launches, AFAIK. The issue is that the Air Force provides tracking and data relay from their down-range tracking stations, and it takes about 2 days for them to reconfigure to support a different launch. They are currently set up for the shuttle. The shuttle won’t be ready to launch until early Wednesday morning, and LRO is scheduled to launch Wednesday afternoon. LRO has to launch in the afternoon on Wed through Saturday or else wait until early July for the alignment between the Earth (and Florida) and the Moon to be correct for launching, and Endeavor has to launch early in the morning this week (Saturday is the last day) for the alignment between the launch pad and the ISS to be okay. After Saturday, they could launch, but there would be problems with heating while it was docked to the station, and they would have to cut off the mission early, so if they miss Saturday, they would have to wait until July 11 to launch. Meanwhile, Discovery is scheduled to launch on Aug 7, which would be cutting it close. And there are other Atlas flights waiting to use LRO’s pad, as well.

    So the current choices are to launch LRO on Wed afternoon, and then launch Endeavor Saturday morning (2+ days later), or to launch Endeavor Wednesday morning and then launch LRO on either Friday or Saturday afternoon. (They could launch LRO on Friday because Endeavor would launch in the early morning, giving them about 2 1/4 days separation.) The 1st option only gives them one chance at each, since if LRO gets delayed by a day due to weather or a minor technical problem, they would miss the Saturday opportunity for Endeavor. The 2nd option gives them 2 chances for Endeavor (Wed and
    Thursday), and, assuming it launches on Wednesday, 2 chances for LRO on Friday and Saturday (or one chance for LRO Saturday if Endeavor launches on Wednesday.) So my guess is they’ll go for that plan.

    However, weather or a major technical problem (that takes more than a day to fix) would throw a total monkey wrench into either plan. So the plan is to start the countdowns on both, then put one or the other on hold at the appropriate point if no major problems arise during either of the countdowns, and only make the final decision when they have to, on Monday afternoon (2 days before the earliest possible LRO launch.)

    I guess this is rocket science :-)

    P.S. has several good articles about this.

  21. DrFlimmer

    So the new launch date is set. Endeavour will (hopefully) launch on Wednesday and the LRO will launch on Thursday as the earliest, more likely Friday or Saturday.

    Fingers crossed, let’s go!


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