Suspect sensor stays 'wet' after tank drained
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: September 8, 2006
Engine cutoff - ECO - sensor No. 3, the one that "failed wet" earlier today and derailed an attempt to launch the shuttle Atlantis, continued indicating it was immersed in liquid hydrogen after the ship's external tank was drained this afternoon, officials said. The other three ECO sensors in the hydrogen tank correctly indicated they were dry as one would expect.
The readings lend some credence to the belief that three of the four sensors are operating normally. If they continue to behave properly when the tank is re-loaded with liquid hydrogen early Saturday - and if no other sensor issues develop - NASA managers may be able to approve a flight rule change allowing a launch with three of four operational ECO sensors.
At launch pad 39B, meanwhile, approaching bad weather will prevent engineers from moving a gantry back in place around Atlantis. As a result, technicians will be unable to re-install a rain cover over one of the ship's forward thrusters that was blown off during a recent storm.
Water in the thruster can freeze as the shuttle climbs to space and interfere with operation of a pressure sensor. That, in turn, can fool the shuttle's computers into believing the thruster failed. But the thruster in question points to one side, not straight up, and engineers are hopeful any rain showers later today will not cause problems.
The official crew patch for the STS-115 mission of space shuttle Atlantis to resume orbital construction of the International Space Station.
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