As announced by NASA, the Shuttle Columbia has had an aborted launch on Monday 22 March and it is presently expected that the countdown for the Spacelab D2 mission will not be resumed before three weeks.
The following measures being carried out on the Shuttle illustrate the complexity of the inspection procedures that have begun :
The external tank has already been emptied, and the cooling units for the biological samples in the orbiter have been set to "zero".
On Tuesday 23 March, (local time at Cape Canaveral in Florida), the servicing gantry has been brought back alongside the Shuttle, and the biological experiments and experiment racks have then been removed from the mid-deck.
The orbiter will then be reconnected to external supplies, and on Tuesday 23 March in the evening NASA's servicing teams will be draining the supercooled fuels from their various tanks. On Wednesday 24 March, the suspect valves will be removed from the propulsion system for inspection, and on Thursday 25 March the Shuttle's ignition mechanisms will be dismantled. Maintenance work will also be done on the Spacelab module.
On Monday 22 March in the evening, the entire crew was flown back to Houston, where they will remain in readiness for a continuation of the mission and the Space Shuttle system is now fully secured.
This Spacelab flight- the 7th for the ESA developed manned orbiting laboratory- is carrying 92 experiments, 32 of them being developed with ESA funding. The responsibility for the complete scientific programme is in the hands of DLR- the German Aerospace Research Establishment.
The ESA facilities onboard Spacelab include mainly Anthrorack and the Advanced Fluid Physics Module (AFPM), (see ESA Release Nr 11-93).