Engineers studied a potential fuel leak in one of the shuttle Discovery's maneuvering rocket pods Friday while engineers in Utah tried to find out how seriously a test booster was damaged in an accident last week, officials said.
Discovery, scheduled for launch in early September on the first post-Challenger shuttle flight, was hauled to launch pad 39-B July 4 for preparations leading to a critical July 25 test firing of its three liquid-fueled main engines.Engineers loaded fuel into the ship's internal tanks earlier this week and tests overnight detected traces of apparent propellant vapor in the shuttle's left-side orbital maneuvering system rocket pod that indicated a possible leak, officials said.
The two "OMS" pod rockets, which are not involved in the flight readiness firing of the main engines, are used to change the shuttle's orbit and to slow it down for re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. The pods also feature smaller rockets used to alter the shuttle's orientation in space.
The data indicating a fuel leak in the left-side pod was not conclusive and engineers were hopeful that if a problem does exist, it can be resolved at the launch pad.
In any case, officials said it was too early to say what impact, if any, the problem might have on the launch processing schedule.
At Morton Thiokol Inc.'s booster plant near Brigham City, engineers worked Friday to disassemble a full-scale test booster for a crucial inspection to find out how seriously an O-ring joint may have been damaged in a processing accident last Saturday.
John Thomas, in charge of NASA's booster redesign program, said the disassembly work should be far enough along by late Friday or early Saturday to get a preliminary look at a damaged O-ring joint that was mistakenly overpressurized in a test last Saturday.