Fri, Dec 03, 2010
More Tests And Analysis Needed Before STS-133 Mission
NASA managers have targeted space shuttle Discovery's launch for
no earlier than Feb. 3 at 0134 EST. Shuttle managers determined
more tests and analysis are needed before proceeding with the
launch of the STS-133 mission to the International Space
The Program Requirements Control Board met Thursday 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
if 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.
The test also will verify the integrity of repairs made earlier
when two cracked stringer sections and foam were replaced. A team
of engineers and technicians will inspect the tank for evidence of
any foam cracking as it would on an actual launch day. The test
also will verify the integrity of repairs to the Ground Umbilical
Carrier Plate, which leaked an unsafe amount of gaseous hydrogen
during Discovery's Nov. 5 launch attempt. The date of the test is
under evaluation, but likely will occur this month.
Engineers will continue to search for the root cause of the
stringer cracks through data analysis and tests, including
placement of manufacturing defects in separate stringers to
demonstrate structural integrity in an effort to duplicate the same
type of failure that occurred in November.
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.
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