NASA tests Discovery’s fuel tank

The National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) on Friday filled space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank with millions of gallons of super-cold propellants to determine what had caused cracks in the fuel tank during last month's launch attempt.

The three-hour tanking test, as it was called, was started at 7 a. m. EST (1200 GMT). Sensors installed on the tank continue to gather data as the tank was emptied in the afternoon. Sensors kept on recording the tank's performance through Saturday when it warms to ambient temperature.

Commenting on the tanking test, Mike Moses from NASA said, "Like anything with a hazardous operation, it is nice and boring today, which is a good thing. Everything is looking like it is supposed to."

Engineers had discovered two cracked 21-foot-long, U-shaped aluminum brackets, known as stringers, during the lead-up to a November 5 attempt to launch the space shuttle on its STS-133 mission.

NASA engineers will analyze the gathered data before deciding the next course of action.

Discovery will retire after final flight, which is expected in early February next year.