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NASA is Confident that Shuttle Endeavour Problem is Fixed

Suzanne Presto | Washington May 09, 2011

The U.S. space agency NASA said Monday that it has "extremely high confidence" that technicians have fixed the problem that canceled the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour late last month.

Endeavour is now set to liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday, May 16, shortly before 13 hours UTC.

A short in a heater circuit forced the launch to be postponed only a few hours ahead of the planned liftoff on April 29.

Technicians determined the heater failure likely stemmed from a faulty switchbox and associated wiring. The heaters prevent the freezing of fuel lines that provide hydraulic power to steer the shuttle during ascent and reentry.

Space Shuttle Program Launch Integration Manager Mike Moses told reporters that engineers replaced the switchbox, and installed and tested new wiring.

"We've replaced everything except the heaters, and we've rung those out with at least five separate checks and full functionals afterwards, and now have extremely high confidence that the problem is no longer on the ship or in any of the electronics," Moses said.

NASA says that if there is another launch delay, the liftoff could be rescheduled to between May 17 and 26.

This mission to the International Space Station is the second-to-last shuttle flight and the final one for Endeavour.

Endeavour's scrubbed launch drew a massive crowd. But Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach says some shuttle watchers probably will not return for the mid-May liftoff.
"Monday morning at 9 a.m. [local time] is not as attractive as Friday afternoon at 4:30, so that will keep some of the crowds down," Leinbach said.

Still, Leinbach adds, large crowds are expected.

Endeavour's Commander Mark Kelly and his five crewmates are due to arrive at the Kennedy

Space Center for prelaunch preparations on Thursday. NASA says Endeavour's mission will be extended from 14 days to 16 days.

The space agency is due to retire the shuttle fleet this year to focus on developing a new spacecraft that can go beyond low-Earth-orbit.

NASA managers say the final space shuttle launch of Atlantis, which was set for late June, will likely be pushed back to July.

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