“CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA will try next week to launch space shuttle Discovery on its final voyage following a four-month delay for fuel tank repairs.
Liftoff is set for late Thursday afternoon. Senior managers voted unanimously Friday on the new launch date after discussing the fixes made since the shuttle’s grounding in early November.
Cracks in the external fuel tank were discovered after a launch attempt was foiled by leaking hydrogen gas. It’s taken this long to understand and repair the cracking, which could have harmed the shuttle during liftoff.
The shuttle will carry six astronauts and a humanoid robot, along with a full load of supplies, to the International Space Station. One of the human crew is a substitute, replacing an astronaut who was injured last month in a bicycle crash.
Astronaut Timothy Kopra helped train his fill-in after he stepped down and was instrumental in keeping the flight on track, officials said. He was supposed to be the lead spacewalker.
NASA opted for a Thursday liftoff at 4:50 p.m., even though a European cargo vessel will be docking at the space station that morning. Officials normally prefer more time between arriving spacecraft, but they want to get Discovery flying as soon as possible given its lengthy delay.
The shuttle launch may be put off if something goes wrong with the docking of the European freighter.