Image: Discovery
Gary I Rothstein  /  EPA file
NASA has scheduled a March 12 launch for the space shuttle Discovery, seen here rolling past a stop sign on its way to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in January.
updated 2/25/2009 8:25:51 PM ET 2009-02-26T01:25:51

NASA is aiming to launch the space shuttle Discovery next month after repeated delays caused by critical valves.

Shuttle managers said Wednesday they hope to launch on March 12, a full month after the original launch date of Feb. 12.

If the shuttle isn’t flying by March 13 or 14, it will have to wait until April to make way for a Russian Soyuz rocket that’s supposed to blast off with a fresh crew for the international space station.

NASA kept postponing the launch after having problems with hydrogen gas valves. One of these valves broke during November’s launch of Endeavour.

Discovery’s three valves are being replaced with valves that engineers hope will be less likely to crack.

NASA will review all the work next week before committing to a March launch.

If Discovery is launched by mid-March, the past delays would have no impact on the two launches due to follow: NASA's final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, now scheduled for launch on May 12; and Endeavour's flight to the international space station, due for launch on June 13 if the Hubble mission begins on time, or on May 15 if the Hubble mission is delayed.

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