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S.S. Discovery's Foam was Crushed During Repair Work

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posted on Oct, 14 2005 @ 08:50 PM
The many modifications made to Space Shuttle Discovery in response to the Columbia loss probably contributed to increased handling as well as potential for damage to the fuel tank foam during repairs prior to flight.

NASA: Shoddy Work Likely Caused Foam Loss

Inadequate methods of applying and repairing foam on the space shuttle's fuel tank probably contributed to the dangerous loss of a chunk of the insulation during Discovery's launch 2 1/2 months ago, a NASA investigation team concluded Friday... Gilbrech's team suspects workers inadvertently crushed the foam while conducting repairs in that area, or handled it in such a way that resulted in damage. The tank was worked on considerably more than previous ones because of all the post-Columbia modifications.

Some redesign work will be required in the spot where foam came off Columbia and resulted in a fatal blow to the wing. During Discovery's liftoff, an 8-inch piece of foam broke off that same area. In all, worrisomely large foam chunks flew off in five spots.

Since employees dealing with the foam followed correct procedures, NASA is going to use the the time before the optimistic date of May 2006 for the next shuttle launch to learn all it can about working with the foam and adjusting job steps accordingly. NASA made this worrisome statement in the above-mentioned article which doesn't exactly inspire confidence in that next launch date!

The investigation team found no evidence of negligence, said Gilbrech, who is deputy director of NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. Workers followed procedures, "it's just we didn't really have an appreciation for the significance that this handling damage could have...." Numerous tests are planned in coming months to establish just how sensitive the foam is and whether it can be easily crushed by workers. Foam is about as well understood right now as steel was during the Industrial Revolution, Gilbrech said.


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