Feeds

Shuttle grounded again - indefinitely

Troubled by foam issues

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

NASA has put future Shuttle missions on indefinite hold, after two chunks of foam fell from Discovery's external fuel tank during its launch this week.

The falling debris is not thought to have damaged the space-plane, but the fact that NASA has not managed to rectify the problem that led to the loss of Columbia is more worrying for the agency. Engineers have worked for two-and-a-half-years, and spent more than a billion dollars, to improve the safety of the Shuttle, including redesigning the external fuel tanks.

The piece of foam that fell was around six inches long, and was from the liquid hydrogen intertank flange, NASA said. In addition, a piece of foam around 30 inches long had come loose from another area of the tank, known as the Pal ramp. Two shielding tiles were also damaged.

NASA administrator Michael Griffin said that the flight has been designed as a test flight. In a statement, he said: "Among the things we are testing are the integrity of the foam insulation and the performance of new camera equipment installed to detect problems. The cameras worked well. The foam did not."

Meanwhile, Shuttle program manager Bill Parsons was more candid, bluntly acknowledging in a news conference that the agency had got it wrong, and said it was "luck" that the foam chunk didn't damage the orbiter.

The Shuttle Atlantis was due to lift off on its own mission in September. That is now on hold indefinitely. NASA says it will not fly again until it has solved the problem. Parsons said: "I don't know when that might be, so I'll just state that right up front. We're just in the beginning of this process of understanding."

Shuttle is due to retire anyway in 2010, but if the flights don't resume, the International Space Station will have to carry on managing with service visits from Russian spacecraft. The Russian vehicle does not have the same capacity as Shuttle, so building work on the station is likely to be held up further. ®

Related stories

NASA investigates falling debris
Shuttle actually lifts off
Shuttle: no launch this week, engineers still baffled

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
Who wants to be there as history is made at the launch of our LOHAN space project?
Two places available in the chase plane above the desert
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.