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Another Crack Discovered On Space Shuttle Discovery

November 16, 2010

Another crack has been found in the fuel tank for space shuttle Discovery.

Discovery’s final mission still remains on hold as engineers and technicians work to fix all the cracks as well as a hydrogen gas leak. 

NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said Monday that all the repairs need to be fixed before they decide on a new launch date.  The launch window opens November 30 and closes December 6.

NASA discovered a long crack in the insulating foam of the fuel tank on November 5.  Two nine-inch cracks were found on the exterior of the tank last week. 

The new three-inch crack is located in the tank’s central, ribbed section, which holds instruments.

“Further foam removal revealed one additional corresponding crack on the same left-hand adjacent stringer,” NASA said.

“Technicians plan to remove that section of the stringer Monday night. They’ll also install a new section of metal, called a doubler because it’s twice as thick as the original stringer metal, on the stringer that had the nine-inch cracks,” it said.

Stringers are 21-foot long support beams in an area between the lower part of the external fuel tanks, which holds liquid hydrogen, and the upper part containing liquid oxygen.

Discovery must head to space before December 6 in order to get in a flight to the International Space Station (ISS). 

Discovery’s 11-day mission will send six astronauts to deliver a pressurized logistics module known as Leonardo to the ISS, which will be permanently attached to the space station to provide more storage space.

Image Caption: A technician examines the area of the external tank where foam was removed to study the source of a crack that developed there. Photo Credit: NASA/Troy Cryder

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