Shuttle Discovery E-Tank Under Review

Despite the large amount of progress made towards flight rationale – called for in relation to Discovery’s External Tank (ET-137) stringer cracks – teams are heading into another week of deliberations, with a large amount of work ahead of them. Although STS-133 launch is threatening to move into next year, NASA managers will continue to evaluate the opportunity to make a late December orbital window, according to NASA Spaceflight with Chris Bergin, providing details.

The next window officially extends from Dec. 17 to Dec. 20. The next status review will be Thursday, Dec. 2 to determine flight readiness. The tank’s problems began Nov. 5 as Discovery was fueled for launch with supercooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

NASA engineers believe the top risk is that a broken stringer could dislodge a chunk of foam, causing it to strike the orbiter and damage its heat-shielding tiles. That type of damage doomed shuttle Columbia during re-entry in 2003.

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