Wed, Dec 29, 2004
The External Tank that will help
launch Space Shuttle Discovery on its Return to Flight mission is
expected to roll out Thursday afternoon, Dec. 30, from NASA's
Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans to begin its journey to
NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., where it will be prepared for
launch. The tank is scheduled to leave New Orleans on its barge
Friday morning Dec. 31.
The tank, known as ET-120, will roll out on its transporter from
the final assembly building and be loaded onto a covered barge
docked at the Michoud Facility. The barge is expected to take four
to five days to travel from the Mississippi River-Gulf of Mexico
Outlet to Florida's Banana River, which pours into the Atlantic
The gigantic, rust-colored external tank is the largest element
of the Space Shuttle system at 27.6-feet wide and 154-feet tall.
During the first eight-and-a-half minutes of launch, the tank feeds
535,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen to the Shuttle's
three main engines, powering the Shuttle to space during ascent.
The tank is the only Shuttle component not reused. It withstands
more than 7 million pounds of thrust during liftoff and ascent.
ET-120 is the first to incorporate safety improvements to
address the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's recommendation
to reduce the risk to the Shuttle from falling debris during
ascent. Investigators believe that during Columbia's launch in
January 2003, insulating foam from the bipod area fell off the
External Tank and damaged the left wing of the Orbiter.
The Space Shuttle Propulsion Office at NASA's Marshall Space
Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the tank project.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. is the primary contractor for the
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