Shuttle launch scrapped due to wonky fuel gauge

Today’s Return to Flight launch of Space Shuttle Discovery has been postponed due to an issue with a low-level fuel cutoff sensor onboard the vehicle. The sensor protects an orbiter’s main engines by triggering them to shut down in the event fuel runs unexpectedly low. Mission managers are currently assessing the problem. More information will be announced as it becomes available.

Eileen Collins is the commander for the Return to Flight mission and leads an international crew of six astronauts. Discovery is set for a 12-day flight to deliver equipment and supplies to the International Space Station. The STS-114 mission comes after a two and a half year initiative to reinforce the orbiters and improve the safety of the Space Shuttle fleet.

Liftoff of Space Shuttle Discovery on NASA’s Return to Flight Mission was scheduled for 3:51 p.m. EDT July 13.


All times are in EDT unless otherwise stated.

The Virtual Launch Control Center was activated July 13, 2005 at 10:00 a.m. EDT.

The Virtual Launch Control Center was deactivated July 13, 2005 at 1:35 p.m. EDT.

1:32 p.m. – Launch Director Mike Leinbach has scrubbed the launch for today. One of four low-level fuel cutoff sensors is not functioning properly. Please visit the Return to Flight main page for further information.

1:27 p.m. – At 1 hour, 27 minutes and counting, all crew members are now aboard and completing their comm checks.

1:15 p.m. – Mission Specialist Stephen Robinson will be the last to board. He is in the White Room undergoing final suit-up.

1:10 p.m. – Mission Specialist Wendy Lawrence is preparing to board.

1:02 p.m. – We are at 1 hour, 52 minutes and counting. The skies above Kennedy Space Center have cleared considerably for the time being.

Did you know? About half of the foods and beverages carried on the Space Shuttle are preserved by dehydration, which saves both weight and storage space. Fortunately, there is ample water for rehydration, since the fuel cells that power the orbiter produce it as a byproduct when generating electricity.

1:00 p.m. – Mission Specialist Soichi Noguchi of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency is preparing to board.

Due to the White Room’s compact size, there is only room for one or two astronauts inside at one time, along with the Closeout Crew members who are assisting them.

Each astronaut completes communications checks after they are seated.

12:53 p.m. – While her crewmates continue to take their seats in the crew module, Commander Eileen Collins has completed communication checks with the NASA Test Director in Kennedy’s firing room 3 and the Capcom in Mission Control, Houston.

Mission Specialist Andrew Thomas will be next to climb aboard Discovery.

12:48 p.m. – Pilot James Kelly is undergoing final preparations to board Discovery. He will join Commander Eileen Collins on the flight deck.

12:45 p.m. – Mission Specialist Charlie Camarda is set to board Discovery. The order of ingress is determined by access to the seats. Seating is started on the far side, and moves forward toward the hatch. The flight deck and mid-deck are boarded simultaneously.

Meanwhile, a lightning advisory issued earlier at Kennedy Space Center has been downgraded.

12:36 p.m. – Commander Eileen Collins is on her way into Discovery’s crew module. She is the first of the seven STS-114 crew members to board the orbiter today. Mission Specialist Charles Camarda is next.

The commander of the Shuttle flight is always seated in seat 1 and the pilot in seat 2. Mission specialists, payload specialists and International Space Station crews can be seated in any of the remaining five seats.

Did you know? Pads A and B at Launch Complex 39 were originally designed for the Apollo Program. The two pads were heavily modified from their Apollo/Saturn V configuration to launch Space Shuttles.

12:25 p.m. – The crew has reached Launch Pad 39B! They’ll ride up in the elevator to the 195-foot level, where they’ll be greeted by the Closeout Crew.

Once the astronauts are fully suited up, they enter the orbiter with the help of the Closeout Crew. The astronauts have specific seating designations for each launch. Often the seating arrangement is changed for descent. There is room for up to four seats in the mid-deck.

12:22 p.m. – The flight crew was just given clearance to proceed to the pad.

12:21 p.m. – There are no collision avoidance issues being worked for today’s launch to the International Space Station.

Did you know? Both Discovery and Atlantis have received the new full-color, flat, 11-panel Multifunction Electronic Display Subsystem. The new system improves crew/orbiter interaction with easy-to-read, graphic portrayals of key flight indicators like attitude, altitude and speed.

12:05 p.m. – As it rains in the Launch Complex 39 area, sunlight is streaming down on Space Shuttle Discovery as if it is under a bright spotlight.

12:00 p.m. – The STS-114 flight crew is departing the Operations and Checkout building among the cheers of Kennedy Space Center employees. They wave to the enthusiastic crowd and board the silver Astrovan for the trip to the launch pad. Despite the rain at the Launch Complex 39 area, crew activities continue on schedule.

11:55 a.m. – T-minus 3 hours and counting! It has started raining at the Kennedy Space Center launch area, and the rumble of thunder has been heard.

11:45 a.m. – Ten minutes remaining in the planned built-in hold at T-3 hours.

11:32 a.m. – NAVAIDS have been activated and checked out with the receivers on Discovery. They are functioning properly. Other navigational aids are being tested, including the global positioning system.

11:27 a.m. – Weather update: We are now at a 60% chance of weather prohibiting launch, due to cumulus clouds predicted to be in the area at launch time.

11:26 a.m. – The final inspection team is now down to the 135 foot level.

11:20 a.m. – Prior to suit-up, the STS-114 crew were briefed on the current weather forecast. Now, the astronauts are being helped into their orange launch and entry suits.

11:11 a.m. – The Final Inspection Team is proceeding to the 195 foot level now.

11:09 a.m. – The water sound suppression system tank is currently being topped off. The water flows over the Mobile Launcher Platform during liftoff.

11:05 a.m. – Less than an hour remains in the planned T-3 hour built-in hold. The countdown will resume at 11:55 a.m.

Did you know? The living space aboard an orbiter is relatively roomy and comfortable, compared to that in early manned spacecraft. There are two floors in the pressurized cabin located in the nose section. Together, they provide 2,325 cubic feet (65.8 cubic meters) of space.

10:51 a.m. – The crew module is being configured at this time by the Astronaut Support Personnel.

10:30 a.m. – The Closeout Crew, dressed in white cover-alls, has arrived in the launch pad’s White Room. The Final Inspection Team, dressed in bright orange suits, has arrived at the launch pad’s 236-foot level, where they will begin their final safety walkdown.

A group of Astronaut Support Personnel known as the “Cape Crusaders” have helped prepare the orbiter for launch today. The team supporting today’s launch is lead by astronaut Lee Archambault as prime, with astronauts Robert Behnken, Alan Poindexter, Douglas Hurley, Barry Wilmore, Michael Good and Kay Hire as support.

The Final Inspection Team (also known as the Ice Team) is composed of seven NASA and contractor members who carry binoculars and a telescope to get a better look at hard-to-see areas. The team objective is to assess the integrity of the thermal insulation on the External Tank. They also look for ice and frost formations on the tank, measure temperatures on various parts of the vehicle and assess debris concerns on the vehicle and pad that could impact launch or flight safety.

Did you know? The External Tank is the only major Space Shuttle component that is not recovered and reused.

10:14 a.m. – Back in Astronaut Crew Quarters, the STS-114 crew is having the traditional cake, which is decorated with the mission’s insignia.

10:09 a.m. – NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding has advised the Closeout Crew to prepare to leave for Launch Pad 39B. The Closeout Crew will begin final preparations in the pad’s White Room for the arrival of the flight crew later today.

10:05 a.m. – Tanking of the External Tank is complete. Both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen are in stable replenish.

10:00 a.m. – Good morning and thank you for joining coverage of today’s launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-114, NASA’s Return to Flight mission. Liftoff is on schedule for 3:51 p.m. The countdown clock is holding at T-3 hours for a three-hour built-in hold; the count will resume at 11:55 a.m.

Today’s weather forecast is still hopeful, with a 40% chance of weather preventing liftoff.

Loading of more than 500,000 gallons of super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen into Discovery’s External Tank began at 7:11 a.m. The tanking process began later than expected due to an improperly functioning primary heater. A crew was deployed to exchange a heating element, and they successfully repaired the heater. Both the primary and redundant heaters are functioning for today’s launch and the delay in tanking will not affect the countdown.

At about 11 p.m. Tuesday evening, Launch Pad 39B’s Rotating Service Structure was retracted from Discovery in preparation for launch. When in place, the giant enveloping appendage is used to install payloads into an orbiter’s cargo bay and provide protection from inclement weather.


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1 thought on “Shuttle launch scrapped due to wonky fuel gauge”

  1. If they can’t duplicate the gauge problem-then i suppose it could be caused by something external. Might the launch assembly -like the electronics even from the press crew!!- be responsible??

    Just trying to think outside the box.

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