Friday, February 27, 2009

NASA aims for March 12 space shuttle launch

NASA is aiming to launch the space shuttle Discovery next month after repeated delays caused by critical valves.

Shuttle managers said Wednesday they hope to launch on March 12, a full month after the original launch date of Feb. 12.

If the shuttle isn't flying by March 13 or 14, it will have to wait until April to make way for a Russian Soyuz rocket that's supposed to blast off with a fresh crew for the international space station.

NASA kept postponing the launch after having problems with hydrogen gas valves. One of these valves broke during November's launch of Endeavour.

Discovery's three valves are being replaced with valves that engineers hope will be less likely to crack. NASA will review all the work next week before committing to a March launch.