Crack found in Discovery external tank insulation
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: July 3, 2006
Engineers inspecting the shuttle Discovery's external tank following Sunday's launch scrub found a crack in the tank's foam insulation near a bracket holding a 17-inch oxygen feed line in place. Some engineers believe the crack must be repaired but senior managers say a variety of options are on the table, from fly as is to making repairs.
As of this writing, no decisions have been made about how to proceed and it's not known what impact the work might have on plans to make a third attempt to launch Discovery Tuesday.
Engineers also found a small piece of foam insulation resting on the surface of Discovery's mobile launch platform that may be associated with the crack. The crack is located near a bracket toward the top of the hydrogen section of the external tank that holds the liquid oxygen feedline in place. It is not yet known what might have caused the crack, although extreme temperature differences because of the presence of super-cold propellants could have played a role.
"We've got a crack on the feedline bracket area at the top of the LOX feedline where it attaches to the hydrogen tank," said NASA spokeswoman June Malone. "It's the top bracket. I heard four to five inches (long). I don't know that we've not seen this before. The feedline has to flex, it has some bare metal there by design, you've got differences in temperatures."
Updates will be posted here as information becomes available.
Photos of the cracked foam are available here.