Countdown to the Cape: Holding (Back Tears)

This morning at 8:11am, the launch of Discovery was scrubbed for the day. Here’s the new problem: a leaky ground umbilical carrier plate.

GUCP on External Fuel Tank

This problem has occurred twice before (STS-119 and STS-127), each time taking four days to fix. The external fuel tanks are being drained right now, and the team will go in tomorrow, after all remaining hydrogen is purged. There exists hope that the greater magnitude of this GUCP leak means the cause will be all the more obvious, once they take a look. If the cause is immediately obvious tomorrow afternoon, the thinking is that the GUCP can be fixed and tested more quickly than before—that a three-day turn-around is possible.

But a Monday launch sounds iffy. Besides, our flight leaves Orlando on Sunday, and we have obligations on Monday and Tuesday.

Discovery, still ready to go

If Discovery doesn’t go up on Monday, the next launch window opens December 1, or maybe November 30 (they’ll run the numbers to try to get an extra day). No one wants to talk much about that here at Kennedy Space Center. The place is buzzing, but it’s a numbing kind of buzz now. The press has resorted to taking photos of each other in the News Center. Discovery remains on Launch Pad 39A.


3 thoughts on “Countdown to the Cape: Holding (Back Tears)

  1. UPDATE: The launch is definitely scrubbed until at least November 30 (when we seem to be especially busy). Not only must they understand and fix the leak in the GUCP, but also there was a crack in the foam on the external fuel tank.

    For the full scoop on these problems and the rescheduling of the launch, watch the Post Launch News Conference online at NASA-TV. About 30-40 minutes in, I ask the question about the crack in the foam. If the crack allows air to touch the skin of the external fuel tank, it can turn to liquid, freeze, and blow the foam off, causing debris. Foam debris is to be avoided, as we know.

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