- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 2, 2002

From combined dispatches
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. The space shuttle Columbia will get at least one more day in space and its crew is likely to press on with their mission to the Hubble Space Telescope despite a problem with a critical coolant system that developed shortly after launch yesterday, NASA said.
Columbia roared off its launch pad just before dawn yesterday, carrying seven astronauts on an 11-day mission to service and upgrade the orbiting Hubble telescope.
But shortly after Columbia reached space, Mission Control reported a problem with a coolant line used to remove heat from the orbiter's electronic systems, one of two such coolant lines aboard the shuttle.
At first, mission managers worried that might bring an early end to the mission since flight rules require both coolant systems to be working, and the flow of Freon in the port-side loop was near the red line for failure.
Last night, mission managers said they would meet again today, but were optimistic the situation would remain stable and the flight could be completed.
"All we want to do is have some time to … do some analysis to prove to ourselves that we can complete the full mission without any undue risk," said shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore.
Columbia has not flown since July 1999, and since then has been put through a $164 million renovation that included a thorough inspection of the coolant lines.
NASA speculated that a tiny piece of debris from that inspection, once it became weightless in space, was able to obstruct the flow of coolant in the line.
Five of the most difficult spacewalks ever attempted by NASA are scheduled for this mission.
The astronauts will make improvements that should increase Hubble's performance tenfold, but to do that the U.S. space agency will have to turn off the power on the venerable observatory for the first time in orbit.
Ground controllers admit they will be holding their collective breath when the time comes to turn the power back on, because a problem could mean having to abandon Hubble, leaving it a tumbling, four-story piece of space junk that would eventually come crashing back to Earth.
Columbia will spend two days chasing Hubble in orbit, before linking up to the 12-year-old satellite early tomorrow.
On Columbia's last flight, which featured the first woman to command a U.S. space mission, Eileen Collins, a series of power failures shortly after liftoff left Columbia just one failure away from possible catastrophe.
The modifications since then included a detailed inspection of every inch of the many miles of wiring in the orbiter.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide