NASA Tests Shuttle Fuel Tank : The Two-Way NASA filled the space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank with more than 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen Friday to try and understand cracking found in the tank's support ribs.
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NASA Tests Shuttle Fuel Tank

Friday's instrumented test of Discovery's orange external fuel tank took place on the launch pad. NASA hide caption

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NASA

Friday's instrumented test of Discovery's orange external fuel tank took place on the launch pad.

NASA

NASA filled the space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank with more than 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen Friday to try and understand cracking found in the tank's support ribs.

Launch manager Mike Moses told the AP that NASA wants answers before it sends Discovery on its final flight, a supply trip to the International Space Station:

"We're not committing to flying anytime soon. We've got to wait until we know we have a good answer to go fly. We want to make sure we know the risk we have in front of us.''

The original November 5 launch was cancelled due to an unrelated hydrogen leak. NASA then found the cracking in the support ribs, a condition that perplexed engineers.

NASA says the test to try and understand the problem will continue through Saturday, although the tank will be drained Friday:

The data collection will continue throughout the day and into Saturday. Today's countdown also continues, with controllers keeping to a normal launch day schedule where possible. The countdown is to hold at T-31 seconds. The tank will be pressurized to flight levels at that point and controllers will leave it at the level for five minutes to monitor its conditions. Then the countdown will end at 2:24 p.m. today. The tank is planned to be drained beginning at 2:45 today and the process finished around 5 p.m. The sensors will continue taking readings through Saturday when the tank returns to ambient temperature.