Morton Thiokol Inc. is insisting that the recent test-firing of the redesigned space shuttle booster rocket was generally a success, despite NASA's announcement that there were problems.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration at first joined Morton Thiokol in praising the Dec. 23 test-firing, the second for the revamped engine. But on Tuesday the space agency announced that a component in the boot ring on the rocket nozzle had failed.
Fire Killed Five
The announcement came just hours after a flash fire killed five Morton Thiokol employees working on the first stage of an MX missile.
NASA officials said the ring would have to be redesigned, delaying the scheduled June launching of the space shuttle Discovery. That launching was to be the first U.S. manned spaceflight since a faulty seal on the Challenger's rocket booster leaked super-hot gases, triggering the Jan. 28, 1986, explosion that destroyed the space shuttle and killed its seven crew members.
Morton Thiokol spokesman Rocky Raab said the Chicago-based aerospace company still considers the test-firing at its Wasatch Operations plant "highly successful."
Reporters have painted the problem in the 126-foot-long rocket as being more serious than it is, Raab said Thursday.
"It's not anywhere near as bad as has been suggested," he said, adding that the company shunned a formal response to NASA's announcement Tuesday because "I don't want to give these reports the dignity of a full-blown press conference."
Anchors End of Boot
The outer boot ring anchors one end of the nozzle's boot to the nozzle.
Raab said no comment or decisions regarding the redesign will be made until a thorough study of the cause of the ring breakup is completed by NASA and Morton Thiokol over the next two to three weeks.