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NASA finds fuel leak on space shuttle Discovery

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Space Shuttle Discovery attached to Launch Pad 39A prepared for its final mission. Photo: NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA (BNS): The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) engineers are trying to repair a small leak in a propellant line of Discovery's orbital maneuvering system engines.

According to NASA, the leak was found at a flange located at the interface where two propellant lines meet in the shuttle's aft compartment.

The line carries a propellant called monomethyl hydrazine, one of two chemicals used to ignite the 6,000-pound thrust engines.

NASA is trying hard to mend with the problem before the scheduled flight of the Discovery space shuttle on November 1.

Engineers and technicians working on Discovery at Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida will try the simplest solution first: tightening the six bolts around the flange.

If that doesn’t help, the propellants already inside the tanks will be pumped out and technicians will replace both the primary and secondary seals.

It's a more complicated job than it might at first appear, as the monomethyl hydrazine is highly toxic, and elaborate safety precautions will have to be taken. It's made harder by the fact that the shuttle is already in the vertical position.

If the leak continues, then NASA has to delay the schedule flight of the space shuttle for at least a month because of clashes with other launches and spacewalks.

The November launch is to be Discovery's last scheduled flight before the shuttle fleet is retired next year.

Tags:

NASA  Discovery  space  
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