Feeds

Shuttle grounded again - indefinitely

Troubled by foam issues

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.