Launch of European cargo ship delayed at least 24 hours

Editor's note...
  • Posted at 05:41 PM, 02/15/11: Launch of European cargo ship delayed at least 24 hours
  • Updated at 09:30 PM, 02/15/11: Launch scrub blamed on first stage liquid oxygen measurement anomaly
CBS News

Launch of a powerful Ariane 5 rocket carrying a European cargo craft bound for the International Space Station was delayed 24 hours Tuesday by a technical glitch in the final stages of the countdown. The delay could impact NASA's plans to launch the shuttle Discovery to the station on Feb. 24.

Launch of an Ariane 5 rocket carrying a European Space Agency cargo ship bound for the International Space Station was delayed Tuesday because of a last-minute technical glitch. (Photo: NASA TV)
The European Space Agency's second Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV-2, had been scheduled for liftoff from the Kourou Space Center in French Guiana at 5:13:27 p.m. EST (GMT-5). But the countdown was halted at T-minus four minutes and one second. Because of the cargo ship's weight -- a record 44,225 pounds -- Arianespace did not have the luxury of a launch window and when the hold was declared, the flight was called off for the day.

Launch was re-targeted for 4:50:55 p.m. Wednesday.

"Well as you have seen during the final countdown one of the ... lights went red," Jean-Yves Le Gall, chairman and CEO of Arianespace, said through a translator. "Since we had no launch window, there will be no other attempt. From what I was told, there was an erroneous piece of data coming from the filling of the launcher. Our teams are already working on that to see what is happening and to try another attempt tomorrow. I'm sorry, but you know this is a difficult exercise and it doesn't work 100 percent of the time."

In a statement released later, Arianespace blamed the launch scrub on "a measurement anomaly in the liquid oxygen propellant tank of the cryogenic main stage."

If the rocket gets off the ground Wednesday, the ATV-2 cargo ship would dock at the Zvezda command module's aft port on Feb. 24, delaying Discovery's takeoff by one day to Feb. 25. If the Ariane does not get off the ground Wednesday, the launch team will stand down two days to service the rocket and make another attempt Friday at around 4:02 p.m. In that case, the ATV would dock Feb. 26 and Discovery's launch would slip to Feb. 27.

If the Ariane 5 is delayed past Friday, Discovery's launch would move back to Feb. 24. Arianespace could make additional launch attempts as needed, but the ATV would loiter in orbit and dock after the shuttle leaves the station at the end of its mission.