Shuttle Damaged, Workman Injured, Launch Postponed

United Press International

The space shuttle Discovery was damaged today and a worker's leg was broken when a service structure fell on a door to the cargo bay, causing damage that forced a fifth delay of Sen. Jake Garn's trip into space, NANA said.

"We will not make the original end-of-March launch date," National Aeronautics and Space Administration spokesman Charles Redmond said in Washington. He indicated the launch date will be sometime in April.

Stu Shadbolt, a spokesman for Lockheed Space Operations Co., said the workman, Gary Sutherland, 35, was struck by an unoccupied cherry picker-like device that unexpectedly telescoped down and hit the forward portion of the left payload bay door.

The service structure is used to provide access to the payload bay during ground work. Just how the accident happened was not known.

Treated for Broken Left Leg

Sutherland suffered two breaks of his left leg and was taken to a local hospital for treatment and observation.

Redmond said the left forward payload bay door on Discovery was hit, puncturing some insulation and small areas of the door's aluminum structure.

He said engineers believe that the door can be repaired and will not have to be replaced.

"There is a feeling that we will lose no more than about a week, but clearly that is going to have to await accident and technical review assessment," he said.

The payload bay doors open in space so that satellites can be released. Attached to the inside of the doors are radiators to drain off excess heat from the shuttle.

Discovery was scheduled to take off around March 29 with a crew of seven, including Garn (R-Utah) on a long-delayed satellite-launching mission.

Faulty Satellite Blamed

Garn originally was to have gone into space earlier on Challenger, but that mission was canceled last week because of a fault in a tracking and data relay satellite the ship was to carry. As a result, NASA combined features of the scrubbed flight and that of Discovery's next flight into a single mission.

Challenger's flight had been postponed three times before it was canceled. The ship was rolled back from the launch pad Tuesday to make way for Discovery, which was scheduled to move to the pad next week.

Workers were readying the ship for the short trip to the Vehicle Assembly Building for attachment to its fuel tank and solid rocket boosters when the accident happened.

Discovery's crew is scheduled to spend about five days in orbit to launch two satellites, conduct a variety of medical experiments and operate a drug factory expected to lead to a new life-saving drug.

The shuttle's payload is made up of what was to have been carried aloft on two missions that were canceled when the shuttle Challenger was grounded.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World