Kennedy Space Center, Florida-NASA has moved the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which had been on the Launch Pad at the Kennedy Space Center, back to the Vehicle Assembly Building for inspection and repairs.
The move follows hail damage to the external fuel tank and the protective tiles on one wing of the craft, during a severe thunderstorm on 26 Feb.
The massive fuel tank, coated with polyurethane foam, suffered, "the worst damage from hail that we have seen on external tank foam," according to Wayne Hale, manager of the Space Shuttle Program, in an earlier statement from NASA (the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
"Further evaluation of the tank is necessary to get an accurate accounting of foam damage and determine the type of repair required and the time needed for that work," NASA said in a 3 March update.
According to the inspection team, the hail caused up to 2000 dents in the tank's foam insulation. Minor surface damage has also occurred on about 26 heat-shield tiles on the Atlantis orbiter's left wing.
Nasa said it will not announce a new launch date: it remains focussed on preparing Atlantis for lift-off in late April on mission STS-117. "