Damage to Shuttle Test-Rocket Not Expected to Delay Launch

Associated Press

Damage to a trial version of Morton Thiokol's redesigned space shuttle booster will delay a July test-firing, but NASA said Monday it expected no delay in the September launching of Discovery.

The test will conclude a series of five run-throughs for the redesigned booster rocket required before the shuttle, grounded after the 1986 Challenger disaster, may resume flying.

The damage occurred Saturday when a worker testing one of the motor's three field joints inadvertently switched pressurization lines and damaged the bonded insulation that helps contain superheated gases during flight, Morton Thiokol spokesman Rocky Raab said Monday.

But Edward S. Campion of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said: "We do not expect it to affect the STS-26 launch schedule."

STS-26 is the official designation for the first flight of a space shuttle since the Jan. 28, 1986, explosion destroyed Challenger and killed seven crew members.

NASA spokesman David Garrett said the test motor must be partly disassembled for evaluation and possible repairs, and then reassembled.

Although a firm date for a rescheduled test-firing will have to wait until the condition of the joint has been assessed, engineers believe the motor can be fired before the end of August, Raab said.

The space shuttle Discovery stands poised on a launching pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a Sept. 4 liftoff.

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