NASA has put the launch of the final repair flight to the Hubble Space Telescope on hold for 5 weeks due to fuel tank problems. The original date for take off was in late August.
A Previous Repair Mission to Hubble
Ever since the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, additional time is required for safety inspections. Improvements need to be made to the fuel tanks on the shuttle for the Hubble servicing mission, which is to carry a seven-man astronaut crew (at this point) in late September. The ship Atlantis’ new fuel tank is the first NASA has built from scratch. The new design will limit the loss of foam insulation that prevents damager to orbiters during liftoff. During the Columbia disaster, a piece of foam gouged a hole in the left wing of the shuttle, ending in the death of all on board as it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere. The agency required two new external tanks for the Spaceship Atlantis because the astronauts will not be able to restock in the International Space Station if the craft suffers severe damage.
The Hubble mission’s delay also means NASA will have to push back a restock mission to the International Space Station. It is not expected to effect NASA’s plan to complete the International Space Station’s construction by 2010. NASA’s new shuttle, Discovery, is still on track for a May 31 launch.