Unfortunately, I was not able to view the full news briefing (hadn't expected it to happen that soon). But I know the most important facts and would like to pass them on here. On the briefing appeared space shuttle program manager Wayne Hale.
Mr. Hale said that the problem is with the "feedthrough" connector. This is a connector on the external tank that connects the in-tank ECO sensors with the lines that go to the point sensor box inside the space shuttle. That connector fails when put under thermal stress, causing some circuits to become open. This is a very rough description, but I hope it helps you get the idea. Mr. Hale said: "We know it is in the connector, but not if it is in the inside or outside part".
How today's test results will affect the launch schedule is not yet clear - the results were somewhat unexpected (I am NOT quoting Hale here) and NASA is now checking which forward actions to be taken (this, however, is a Hale quote ;)). One of the exact quotes I was able to get hold of: "The program is being asked to assemble the ISS. We'd like to do that as quickly as we can in regard to safety. We don't need to go fly if it is not safe. We will follow that trail and see where it leads us. And when we have fixed it we'll go fly - no matter if it is Jan 10 or Feb 10th or whenever".
To me, the bottom line is that the January 10th launch is under consideration. We will know for sure only in a few days when the data gathered has been analyzed and a proper plan has been crafted. After all, this is why such launch schedules are always "no earlier than". And I think it is a good thing to put safety first!
With that, I conclude my report for today. I'll try to do a sum-up tomorrow but guess I've already covered the most important things.
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