Space Shuttle Endeavor final mission delayed to May 8 at the earliest

space-shuttle-endeavorThe Space Shuttle Endeavor‘s final launch planned for later today has been postponed due to a technical malfunction. The heaters on one of the shuttle’s fuel lines failed during last Friday’s aborted launch and repair techs have now traced the problem to the aft load control assembly-2, which NASA describes in lay terms as “a box of switches controlling power feeds.”

“That basically means the power is not getting out to the heaters that weren’t working on launch day [last Friday],” Space Shuttle program launch integration manager Mike Moses explained. The next steps involve replacing the ALCA-2 and testing it, as well as examining the faulty box for evidence of how the issue arose in the first place, a process that will take several days. Friday’s launch had originally been postponed until today, but NASA now says that the Endeavor won’t make its final flight until next week, at the earliest.

“We can tell you, pretty much, that it’s not going to be any earlier than (May 8),” Moses said. “We’re really not even setting the schedules today. There’s still a whole lot of short-term work that has to be done.”

There was a brief hope over the weekend that the shuttle might launch this week, as early as Wednesday. It would have depended on the Air Force agreeing to delay a planned Atlas V rocket launch, which will put a missile early warning satellite into orbit this Friday. It never even got to that point, however, as the Endeavor‘s malfunction requires more repair time than the shorter delay window would have allowed.

The final Endeavor launch is the last of two that NASA has planned in the twilight days of its Space Shuttle program. The mission, STS-134, involves delivering equipment to the International Space Station. STS-135 is to be the final Space Shuttle mission, to be flown by Atlantis. That launch was to be contingent on funding approval, but NASA stated earlier this year that STS-135 will proceed regardless of the funding situation.