Technicians found more cracks in fuel tank of Discovery
The cracks are under evaluation and NASA hopes they will not delay the much delayed Feb. 3rd launch.
The launch of the space craft has already been delayed several times. Some other cracks in the shuttle have forced NASA to defer the Dec. 17 launch and push it to February.
Since then, the technicians have been scanning the external fuel tank including all the 108 support beams called stringers and in the process discovered small cracks on top of stringers on panel 6.
Stringers are aluminium strips situated between the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen parts of the tank, for providing extra strength to the structure of the space craft.
NASA said, “The newly detected cracks are under evaluation.” Program managers of the Space Shuttle are going to meet soon, to decide if any modification is required on these stringers. The modifications, if required could only start on Monday, Jan. 3rd.
Present problem not likely to affect the launch
Public Affairs Officer of the Space Shuttle program, Kyle Herring said that the Feb. 3rd schedule of the launch will probably not be affected, even if some modifications are required.
NASA is presently not facing any type of budget constraints and they want to be completely sure about the safety of the craft, before its launch.
The launch of Discovery, which was originally slated for November 1st, has been delayed many times because of reasons ranging from inclement weather, leaks, electrical issues and cracks.
Discovery on its last mission
The space craft will be on a mission to deliver a humanoid robot, to help the crew at the International Space Station and also another storage room for the ISS.
The present mission STS-133 will be the last mission of the space craft Discovery, before being retired along with the rest of the fleet of NASA in 2011.