Monday, December 6, 2010
Discovery now postponed until February
NASA managers have targeted space shuttle Discovery's launch for no earlier than Feb. 3 at 1:34 a.m. EST. Shuttle managers determined more tests and analysis are needed before proceeding with the launch of the STS-133 mission to the International Space Station.
The Program Requirements Control Board met Dec. 2 and reviewed engineering evaluations associated with cracks on two 21-foot-long, U-shaped aluminum brackets, called stringers, on the shuttle's external tank. NASA repaired the cracks and reapplied foam to the exterior of the stringers. Managers decided the analysis and tests required to launch Discovery safely are not complete. They are planning to conduct an instrumented test on the external fuel tank and structural evaluations on stringer test articles to determine whether the analysis is correct. Details and timelines for the tanking test are in work, but plans call for temperature and strain gauge measurements in the intertank region near the top of the tank during the test.
NASA will review and analyze the data from the tests before setting a launch date. Because of Discovery's delayed launch, the earliest opportunity for the liftoff of the final scheduled shuttle mission, STS-134 on Endeavour, is April 1.
Today at NASA's Johnson Space Center, the STS-133 crew is conducting an integrated entry simulation today in the motion base simulator and will review spacewalking procedures.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 8:43 AM