Feeds

Shuttle grounded again - indefinitely

Troubled by foam issues

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.