Electrical fault delays space shuttle launch

3 May 2011

Teams at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are working to repair an electrical fault on the space shuttle Endeavour, which means it won’t blast off for its final journey before 10 May, NASA said.

The youngest of the US space program’s orbiters and her crew of six astronauts was to lift off on Friday, delivering a US$2bn particle physics experiment to the International Space Station.

Heaters on a fuel line feeding part of the shuttle’s hydraulic power system failed to turn on, putting the shuttle’s launch on hold. The problem could have sparked a fire during flight.

An electronic switch box in Endeavour‘s engine compartment, which routes power to nine critical systems, is believed to be at fault.

Upon completion of its two-week and 25th mission, NASA will retire Endeavour to a museum in Los Angeles.

The space shuttle Atlantis will then be the only shuttle still in active service, and it is expected to make its final journey in the next few months.

NASA is retiring the shuttles because of high operating costs and the need to free up funds for work on a new launch system that can carry people and cargo beyond the space station’s orbit, where shuttles can’t go.

Endeavour, which was built to replace the space shuttle Challenger that broke apart on liftoff in 1986, has travelled a cumulative distance in space of 166m km.