January 11, 2011

NASA: Discovery’s New Launch Date Set For February 24

NASA announced Tuesday that it would shoot for a February 24 launch date for space shuttle Discovery's last mission.

The space shuttle has experienced delays since November due to cracks on its external fuel tank.

"We think we can support a launch date for the 24th of February," said Mike Suffredini, International Space Station Program manager, at a press briefing.

NASA officials were briefed on Monday by shuttle managers about the progress on the repairs discovered on the 21-foot-long U-shaped aluminum brackets, which are known as stringers, found on the shuttle's external fuel tank.

"Managers approved installing small strips of metal, called radius blocks, on the tank's remaining stringers," NASA said in a statement.

"While additional testing and analysis continue, results so far show the modification will provide additional strength to the stringers."

John Shannon, shuttle program manager, described during the briefing the exhaustive tests that engineers performed in order to find ways to fix the brackets.

"I'm very confident that we finally got it figured out," said Shannon. "We are on the road to bringing this tank to 100 percent."

Discovery's last mission has has setbacks since its initial launch attempt in November and was scrubbed after the cracks were discovered.

Space shuttle Endeavour is set to take off in April on its final mission as well.

The entire space shuttle fleet is being retired after President Barack Obama's administration decided to cut the budget to the program to focus more on commercial space taxiing.

Another unscheduled launch could take place this summer before the fleet is retired for good.


Image Caption: Shuttle Discovery inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux


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