Feeds

NASA: hail damage means no launch yet for Atlantis

Insulating foam causing problems again

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

NASA says it will not set a date for the next Shuttle launch until it has properly assessed the damage to the fuel tank.

The shuttle Atlantis was supposed to blast off last week, but the fuel tank's foam covering was damaged by "golf ball sized" hailstones as it sat on the launch pad during a storm in late February. NASA says the foam has thousands of dings in it, and it is not yet clear whether the dings can be repaired or whether the tank will have to be replaced in its entirety. Some can be sanded out, but around 1600 would have to be filled, engineers say.

NASA associate administrator for space operations Bill Gerstenmaier said the agency was planning more analysis. "Then we will have enough data to make a good decision."

The delay means one of the five planned launches for 2007 has had to be bumped into 2008. The agency says it hopes to catch up with its launch schedule by the middle of next year.

The foam is designed to prevent a build up of ice on the rocket ahead of a launch. Any ice that builds up can fall off, potentially damaging the Shuttle's insulation. Damaged foam is also more likely to fall off, as with the Columbia. NASA, understandably, does not want to risk a similar incident in the future.

The company that makes the tanks is trying out ways of applying a new layer of foam on a mock up of the launcher. According to reports, the company has also asked for time to test the heat resistance of the new foam.

If the tests are successful and the tank can be repaired, Atlantis could still be ready for a launch in May. If things slip further, for instance if it has to be swapped out for a new tank, there is no chance of a launch before June. The current launch window closes on 21 May, and another does not open until 8 June.

NASA's head of all things shuttle related, Wayne Hale, said: "The goal is to have a good tank." ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
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 ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
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.