Wed, Jun 18, 2008
39-A Damaged During Discovery Launch
Officials with NASA allowed journalists to take a look at damage
to Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center on Monday, two weeks after the
launch of space shuttle Discovery caused some 5,300 heat-resistant bricks to
break off from a flame-retardant blast wall.
The Associated Press reports the scene resembled "the aftermath
of a volcanic eruption," with brick fragments still scattered
around the site. Cleanup efforts have reportedly stalled due to
traces of asbestos found in the bricks.
The "flame trench" was installed when Pad 39-A was constructed
by the US Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960s, and was used for
the Apollo moon missions. NASA said it appears some of the bricks
weren't applied properly at that time, allowing gaps between the
bricks and the adhesive used to form and widen over the years.
Before Discovery's June 2 launch, the worse damage to the pad
occurred during the doomed January 28, 1986 launch of the shuttle
Challenger... when about 800 bricks were lost.
Despite the damage, NASA is optimistic the pad will be repaired
in time for the early October launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.
Senior managers will meet June 26 to discuss options, with the most
likely scenario involving the installation of a steel mesh cover
over the roughly 75-foot-by-20-foot area where the bricks
separated. A heat-resistant coating would then be applied over the
That repair option is quicker than forming and installing new
bricks, said NASA's lead engineer on the project, Perry Becker. It
will take months for new bricks to be delivered.
NASA is also inspecting the adjacent pad 39-B, so determine
whether its flame trench has similar flaws.
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