NASA Postpones Shuttle Launch to at Least Late February

Repair work to space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank begins in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Technicians will modify 32 support beams, called stringers, on the tank’s intertank region by fitting pieces of metal, called radius blocks, over the stringers’ edges where they attach to the thrust panel area. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

NASA MISSION UPDATE Jan. 7, 2011

NASA managers are evaluating potential launch dates for space shuttle Discovery in late February and working to see if International Space Station on orbit operations would allow a launch as early as Feb. 24. More will be known next week and managers hope to set a launch date by the end of next week.

Progress continues to be made in understanding the most probable cause of cracks discovered on Discovery’s external tank mid-section, known as the intertank, where small cracks developed during the Nov. 5, 2010, launch attempt. Four additional small cracks were found during thorough X-ray of the backside of the tank after Discovery was returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building before Christmas.

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