Engineers still searching for fault

by Chris Bergin

United Space Alliance Engineers are still searching for reasons relating to the Engine Cut Out (ECO) fault that cause the scrub of last Wednesday’s launch of Shuttle Discovery.

With a launch date now set for ‘no sooner than’ the end of next week, engineers are deep into the troubleshooting phase – with no cause yet found on why the LH2 ECO (number 2) failed to work properly.

Discovery’s launch date will be decided from the point the fault is either found and corrected, or when NASA managers decide on a possible reduction in the launch requirement of having all four ECO sensors in full working order. Discovery will take four days to ready to launch following that point in time.

Should the ECO sensors be at fault and require work or replacement, Discovery will have to be rolled back – once again – most likely ending the opportunity to launch in July. The next launch window opens in September.

Meanwhile, NASA managers have come under fire from a former engineer who helped build Shuttle Columbia.

“Any engineer will tell you that you can’t beat a good test,” said Randy Avera, when talking about the ECO fault and the lack of a third Tanking Test. “NASA should have tested that.”

However, on passing Avera’s quotes on to a current United Space Alliance External Tank engineer – who asked not to be named – his comments were shot down.

“Some people should learn to keep their comments to themselves,” he noted. “We thought we had solved the ECO issue given the lack of any problem on Tanking Test 2. If we tested everything as much as some people are calling for, we’d never launch.” 

NASA manager Wayne Hale set to hold a press conference on Monday to update the current status of troubleshooting and options to proceed to another launch attempt of Discovery.

“It’s possible that we could be back in the countdown and looking at a launch in the latter half of the [next] week,” said Hale a few days ago. “But that would require a very near-term lucky find.

“As we move into more detailed testing, we obviously are moving into fixes that might take longer. But we are not..becoming pessimistic about making the July launch window.”

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