Problem in fuel cell causes delay in launch of shuttle

The Baltimore Sun

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A problem with the system that provides power to the shuttle caused NASA yesterday to once again delay the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis. Space agency managers were scheduled to meet today in hopes of clearing the way for a launch tomorrow.

The launch was only hours away yesterday morning when engineers reported a short in one of three fuel cells that supply electricity for all the onboard systems, including the crew compartment. Although the systems are redundant, the launch was scrubbed out of fear that a problem in one generating system could appear in others.

Despite troubleshooting the problem all day, shuttle program managers were still uncertain late yesterday what caused the short. The possibilities included bad wiring or a faulty connector.

"If we get a good handle on what's going on, then we will go fly," said shuttle program manager N. Wayne Hale Jr. "If not, we will stand down and change the fuel cell out."

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