Kape Kennedy, Florida -- US space agency NASA said 28 Jan that technicians in the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building have "completed all mechanical work and foam replacement for modifications on space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank stringers."
Teams have been preparing for Discovery's rollout back to Launch Pad 39A, which happened Monday 31 Jan.
NASA technicians began modifications to 34 support beams, called stringers, on space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank, on 4 Jan 2011. The need for repairs followed the identification of cracks in the insulating foam and then on underlying metal stringers, after Discovery's 5 Nov launch on its latest space station mission was aborted when engineers found a leak in the fuel delivery system.
A subsequent inspection by NASA identified cracked insulation foam on the intertank, the area which joins the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks. Removal of the foam identified cracks in the metal 'stringers' underneath the foam, which were thought to be the cause of the foam defects.
The launch for Discovery's STS-133 mission to the International Space Station is now set for 24 Feb. This will be Discovery's last shuttle mission. Two further mission are planned, STS 134 with shuttle Endeavour and STS 135 with shuttle Atlantis, before the programme is finally wound up.
PIC: Space shuttle Discovery is surrounded by work platforms inside the Vehicle Assembly Building so technicians can access all the areas of the shuttle stack, including the top of the intertank region of the external fuel tank. Photo: NASA/Kim Shiflett