Discovery to be repaired inside VAB

NASA has decided to go ahead with repairs to Discovery's ET inside of the VAB. Photo Credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Shuttle mission managers have decided to go ahead with repairs to numerous support beams located on space shuttle Discovery’s external tank (ET). Dozens of these stringers will be strengthened due to cracks that have been found on the intertank region of the ET. It is hoped that these repairs will allow Discovery could still meet its current launch window scheduled for Feb. 24.

The work done to Discovery’s ET is set to be done inside the expansive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and will focus around the support beams, called ‘stringers.’ The work to the ET is slated to take about a week to complete. Managers are still looking for the root cause behind these cracks. The concern is that any one of these cracks could cause severe problems come launch day.

The first of these cracks was discovered after Discovery’s Nov. 5 launch attempt was scrubbed. Further review found more cracks. NASA conducted a tanking test on Dec. 17 to see how the ET would fare when pumped full of super-cooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The ET can shrink by as much as an inch during tanking and NASA wanted to see what impact fueling would have on these cracks.. Therefore NASA had the orbiter wheeled back to the VAB to undergo a number of scans to see how the ET held up. It is now up to the engineer’s to fix the shuttle’s ET in time for the final flight of the space shuttle Discovery.

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