CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA managers – still struggling to figure out what caused cracks in the space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank – decided Wednesday that the shuttle’s final flight will now launch no earlier than Dec. 17.
Officials had been considering an attempt between Dec. 3 and Dec. 6, but wanted more time to complete analysis of the cracked tank.
The new launch window extends from Dec. 17 to Dec. 20 and would put Discovery’s six-person crew at the International Space Station on Christmas Day.
But NASA shuttle program manager John Shannon said Dec. 17 is a “no-earlier-than” date, adding there is still much work to be done to understand why cracks formed on the upper part of the fuel tank.
Discovery’s early-November launch was delayed initially by weather and a hydrogen fuel leak. But while crews were working on that, they found cracks in the giant orange fuel tank. Repairs and inspections were finished over the weekend.