NASA postpones ‘Discovery’ launch after detecting gas leak


NASA today postponed the launch of the space shuttle Discovery until at least March 15, after technicians found a gas leak in the filling system for its external tank.

NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said the orbiter’s mission towards the International Space Station was delayed after the leak of highly flammable hydrogen gas was discovered.

According to CNN, the US space agency spent the past four weeks investigating paper-thin cracks in the valves and whether flying with those cracks would be too risky. In the end, all three of Discovery’s valves were replaced.

“We had sensed that we would get to this point,” space shuttle program manager John Shannon told the news network. “It’s just one of those problems you just have to keep working at, and you have to keep doing the research, the analysis, the real hardware tests. And finally we got to that point.”

The space shuttle’s mission is to deliver the final piece of the International Space Station’s power system. The crew includes Koichi Wakata, a Japanese astronaut who will become that nation’s first resident crew member.