NASA looks to launch shuttle Endeavour in July

Hydrogen leak forces NASA to scrub Endeavour launch for second time

After a gaseous hydrogen leak today forced NASA to scrub the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour for the second time, the space agency said it is now looking to try again in July.

Endeavour and its seven-person crew was set to launch at 5:40 a.m. EDT today, but the launch was aborted at 1:55 a.m. when the leak was detected at the shuttle's ground umbilical carrier plate. Today's leak was located in the same area as the one that forced NASA to cancel Endeavour's scheduled June 13 launch.

"We're going to step back and figure out what the problem is and go fix it," said Deputy Space Shuttle Program Manager LeRoy Cain, during a briefing today. "Once we get it fixed and we're confident that we have a solution that's going to work and allow us to go fly safely, then we'll proceed forward."

To make sure its engineers have time to figure out and fix the problem, NASA pushed the next scheduled launch date back to July 11.

Astronaut Mark Polansky has been Twittering about his role on the Endeavour crew. At about 2:30 a.m. EDT today he wrote, "I'm sure you all know that we postponed again. It's a reminder that spaceflight is NOT routine." And then, late this morning, he tweeted that the crew will be getting back into a mission training schedule on Monday.

Endeavour's crew is slated to conduct a 16-day mission to expand the Japanese laboratory housed on the International Space Station. NASA has called the operation one of its most technical missions yet -- one that will call on the power of three separate robots.

The highly complex mission will include five spacewalks and the use of three robotic arms -- with two robots working together, and one "walking" across the outside of the space station.

NASA is still set to launch two lunar satellites -- the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite -- late Thursday afternoon. The satellites are scheduled to lift off together aboard an Atlas V rocket between 5 p.m. and 5:32 p.m.

Both satellites will be focused on sending information back to Earth to help NASA scientists determine safe landing sites and resources for a human return to the moon.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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