Sunday, 1 May 2011

Setting sail

NASA finally confirmed mid-afternoon what everyone had been expecting - that the launch of Endeavour would be put back to at least next Sunday and perhaps May 10 so a faulty electronic switch box that routes power to critical systems can be replaced.

The hopes of a new launch attempt early in the week evaporated after it became clear that the switch box would have to be replaced, and the work and extensive testing could not be been completed in time to launch prior to a planned Atlas rocket flight on Friday.

Mike Moses, chairman of the launch management team, stressed that 8 May was only a working target at this stage, hinting that if the box changeover and testing was not straightforward the delay could be longer.

He said they hoped to announce a new target launch date by the middle of the week.

An initial launch attempt was scrapped on Friday after heaters on one of the Shuttle's Auxiliary Power Units failed. The problem was traced to the switch box, which will be replaced early this week. The testing of a spare switch box is expected to take an additional two days.

Meanwhile, at nearby Port Canaveral on Sunday afternoon, a procession of three giant cruise ships embarked on their own voyages of discovery.

This picture shows the Freedom of the Seas with 5000 passengers and 1000 crew making its way out into the Atlantic.

Two ships that shouldn’t have been in dock today - or at least on their way back in to port - were NASA’s booster recovery vessels, Liberty Star and Freedom Star.

Had Endeavour launched as originally planned on Friday, the two ships would normally have been arriving back during the day with the recovered solid rocket boosters in tow.

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