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New repairs and additional imaging begin on space shuttle Discovery

Image scans of all 108 of the external tank’s support beams revealed four small cracks on three beams on the side opposite the shuttle.
Space shuttle Discovery remains inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida where technicians today are starting repairs on three support beams, called stringers, on the outside of the shuttle's external tank. Recent X-ray type image scans of all 108 of the tank's stringers revealed four small cracks on three beams on the side opposite Discovery. Managers decided Thursday to have those cracks repaired in a similar fashion to repairs made on cracks found on two stringers after Discovery's November 5, 2010, launch attempt.

Also beginning today is another round of imaging — this time, using the backscatter method — on all of the tank's stringers. Engineers at various NASA centers continue to analyze testing and imaging data.

The repair work is estimated to take 2 to 3 days. Any further work will be evaluated thoroughly during the week after additional data and analysis are reviewed.

Managers also continue to evaluate an option to perform known and practiced modifications on some stringers. Before breaking for the holiday, technicians reconfigured scaffolding to provide access for the modification work should it be required. A decision may be made on that work as early as today.

The next available launch date window for Discovery's STS-133 mission to the International Space Station remains February 3 through February 10.

NASA technician
Technician is getting ready to take a computed radiography (CR) image scan of the tank. The red machine in the foreground is the CR device. NASA/Frankie Martin
Space shuttle Discovery remains inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida where technicians today are starting repairs on three support beams, called stringers, on the outside of the shuttle's external tank. Recent X-ray type image scans of all 108 of the tank's stringers revealed four small cracks on three beams on the side opposite Discovery. Managers decided Thursday to have those cracks repaired in a similar fashion to repairs made on cracks found on two stringers after Discovery's November 5, 2010, launch attempt.

Also beginning today is another round of imaging — this time, using the backscatter method — on all of the tank's stringers. Engineers at various NASA centers continue to analyze testing and imaging data.

The repair work is estimated to take 2 to 3 days. Any further work will be evaluated thoroughly during the week after additional data and analysis are reviewed.

Managers also continue to evaluate an option to perform known and practiced modifications on some stringers. Before breaking for the holiday, technicians reconfigured scaffolding to provide access for the modification work should it be required. A decision may be made on that work as early as today.

The next available launch date window for Discovery's STS-133 mission to the International Space Station remains February 3 through February 10.

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