CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Gusty wind forced NASA to call off Monday night's planned launch of space shuttle Discovery on a space station construction mission.
The flight was already four days late because of mechanical problems, which were resolved over the weekend. Launch managers said they would try again Tuesday, even though windy weather could still be a problem.
High wind prevented technicians from moving a vent hood into position over the external fuel tank Monday morning, part of the preparation before the fuel tank can be filled. The wind limit is 48 mph, and gusts reached more than 51 mph, said NASA spokesman Bruce Buckingham.
"With those winds blowing at that speed, we wouldn't be able to align" the vent hood over the fuel tank, Buckingham said.
The hood, which NASA refers to as the beanie cap, is used during and after fueling to remove gaseous oxygen exhausting from the tip of the fuel tank. It is swung back two minutes before liftoff.
The astronauts were still hours away from boarding the shuttle when the countdown was halted.
Discovery was supposed to depart for the international space station last Thursday but was grounded by concerns over bolts on the external fuel tank. A sluggish valve in the shuttle's engine compartment also had to be replaced.
Shuttle managers wrapped up the bolt issue Sunday and declared Discovery safe to fly.
While reviewing film from Atlantis' launch last month, engineers noticed Wednesday that one of the bolts on the external fuel tank did not retract fully when the tank separated from the shuttle eight minutes into the flight as planned.
NASA immediately put together three teams to investigate the bolt malfunction and determine whether the problem might affect Discovery.
As of Sunday, after reviewing piles of film, engineers had identified about a half-dozen shuttle launches with similar bolt problems, said test director Steve Altemus. The malfunctioning bolts did not cause any of the fuel tanks to tilt or tumble when jettisoned, he said.
"That's good news," Altemus said.
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