NASA fuels shuttle test for cracks

This image provided by NASA TV shows the space shuttle Discovery on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center Friday morning Dec. 17, 2010 as a tanking test begins. Teams will fill the spacecraft's external fuel tank with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen just as they do during a launch attempt to verify repairs made to the tank. Technicians added 89 sensors to the outside of the tank recently including strain gauges to gather precise measurements of how much the tank moves during the fueling process. (AP Photo/NASA)
December 17, 2010 8:03:09 AM PST
NASA is fueling space shuttle Discovery at the launch pad. But the shuttle won't be flying anywhere, at least not anytime soon. Discovery is grounded until February because of cracks that popped up in its fuel tank during last month's launch attempt. The cracks have been fixed. But engineers still do not understand why they occurred.

So in a countdown test Friday morning, the launch team began pumping more than 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen into Discovery's external fuel tank. The tank is rigged with dozens of strain gauges and temperature sensors to provide clues to the cracking.

Whenever Discovery flies, it will be its last trip into orbit. It's loaded with cargo for the International Space Station.


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