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Discovery ready for second try

NASA will launch the space shuttle Discovery on a construction mission to the International Space Station after fixing a fuel leak triggered a delay last week.

The blastoff is set for this morning from the Kennedy Space Center.

Engineers installed new seals in a fuel vent line, hoping that will solve the problem that postponed NASA's first launch attempt on Wednesday when hydrogen gas leaked from the shuttle's fuel tank, posing a fire hazard.

Technicians were unable to find the exact cause of last week's leak.

"I was a little surprised that we didn't find something more obvious because it was a healthy leak," shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach told reporters on Saturday.

Still, if the shuttle does not leak when it is fueled for flight this time, it will be safe to fly, he added.

NASA plans to start filling the shuttle's tank with 500,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen about two hours before the launch.

NASA has until tomorrow to launch the shuttle or face a delay until April 7 to avoid a schedule conflict with a Russia-led Soyuz mission to replace the station's prime crew.

Discovery will be carrying the fourth and final solar power module for the United States part of the station, a US$100 billion project contributed by 16 nations.

The crew includes Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who will be left behind to serve as a station flight engineer.

Wakata will be the first Japanese to live on the space station.


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