Tuesday, January 12, 2010

NASA plans on-time shuttle liftoff despite snag


Engineers scrambling to repair broken hoses on latest Tranquility module

NASA is still hoping to launch the shuttle Endeavour in early February as engineers scramble to repair broken hoses on the new space station module set to travel aboard the orbiter.

Endeavour is slated to launch the latest Tranquility module to the International Space Station on Feb. 7 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But two of the module's four ammonia coolant hoses have unsuccessful standard pre-launch checks, forcing engineers to come up with a repair plan while others try to build new hoses from scratch, station managers said Monday.

"Folks are working very hard to get the hoses completed, checked out, certified [and] tested," said Pete Hasbrook. NASA manager for the Expedition 22 mission aboard the space station "We are still working toward the Feb. 7 launch date."

The Tranquility module will give additional living space for the crew on board the space station.

Broken hoses

The new module, like other space station rooms, utilizes liquid ammonia as a coolant to keep its computers and other electronic equipment cool in space. The coolant hoses are routed on the outer surface of the space station and must function at a pressure of 3,000 pounds per square inch (psi) to keep the ammonia supply liquid and moving, Hasbrook said.

But the two broken coolant hoses on Tranquility failed at a pressure of only 1,500 psi or so,it seems that a defect in the exterior braided-metal sheath covering the flexible hose, Hasbrook said. The metal braids began separating from the hose connector during the analysis, he added.

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