Kennedy Space Center, Florida-During the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery on Tues 4 July, some small pieces of the polyurethane foam insulation came away from the external tank, as captured by video cameras set up for the purpose.
But NASA officials are reported to be unconcerned, saying the size of the pieces was insufficient to have caused damage to the Shuttle. Also the fact that the debris came away three minutes into the mission means that there was not enough air to accelerate the pieces into the orbiter.
At an evening press conference Tuesday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Space Shuttle program manager Wayne Hale reported that the external tank's performance was greatly improved during the Independence Day launch.
A NASA statement said that the Shuttle's onboard cameras captured "very small pieces of external tank foam that were liberated during the ascent phase. Engineers are continuing to conduct analysis of these and other photos."
The Shuttle will dock International Space Station on Thursday, and the shedule for Wednesday will see crew members using the orbiter's robotic arm to inspect the heat shield.
The mission, known as STS-121, will also deliver a new crew member, Thomas Reiter, to the space station and replace critical hardware needed for future assembly of the complex. Reiter, a member of the European Space Agency, will spend the next six months on the station.