Thursday, January 27, 2011

Endeavour's external tank will get Discovery-like modifications

Discovery remains on track to roll back out to the launch pad Monday evening as technicians at Kennedy Space Center wrap up months of work on the shuttle's external tank today and tomorrow.

As repairs and modifications to roughly 100 support beams called stringers near completion, the shuttle program today approved similar work on the next tank scheduled to fly, with Endeavour in April.

The tank labeled ET-122 was built before Discovery's tank and refurbished after sustaining damage during Hurricane Katrina. Stringers lining the tank's ridged mid-section are not made of a more brittle aluminum-lithium alloy that cracked on Discovery's tank.

But managers decided reinforcing the tops of the stringers with small metal strips called radius blocks would reduce uncertainty and do no harm.

Schedules will be arranged to preserve the option of performing a tanking test after the shuttle rolls out to the pad. Endeavour's rollout for a targeted April 19 launch was anticipated in early March.

IMAGE: In the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center on Jan. 19, the external fuel tank, ET-122, for space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission is being lowered toward the twin solid rocket boosters. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

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