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Return to Flight Delayed to July.


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Crew of STS-114.
Crew of STS-114, practicing for their upcoming launch. Image credit: NASA.

NASA has decided to push back the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery to July to give engineers more time to deal with some potential safety concerns with the return to flight. Managers are concerned about ice building up on the shuttle external tank, which could fall off and damage the orbiter during take off. The shuttle will be rolled back to the assembly building to make additional improvements. NASA is currently targeting a launch window of July 13 to 31.

NASA announced today July 13 to 31 is the new launch planning window for the Space Shuttle Discovery mission. The new window gives the agency time to do additional work to ensure a safe Return to Flight for Discovery and its crew.

Today's announcement follows Space Shuttle Program reviews over the past two weeks. Managers identified the need to do more work to validate engineering analyses of potential debris hazards and to make some additional modifications to the external fuel tank. NASA officials and program managers agreed late Thursday to take the time to complete the work.

"This is consistent with our overall approach to the STS-114 mission, which is that we're going to return to flight, we're not going to rush to flight," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said at a morning news conference at NASA Headquarters. "Our intent with this effort is to make certain we are as safe as we know how to be before we launch the Space Shuttle and its crew. We want it to be right."

"From the beginning we’ve been milestone-driven," said William Readdy, NASA associate administrator for Space Operations. "This time, the milestones on debris and ice analyses, propulsion system troubleshooting and External Tank modifications drove us to retarget for July. We’ve never been reluctant to adjust the dates as information becomes available."

The Return to Flight mission will take Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins and six crew members to the International Space Station. The mission is the first of two test flights to evaluate new thermal protection system inspection and repair techniques and to deliver supplies and equipment to the Station. A transcript of today's news conference and follow-on technical briefing from NASA's Johnson Space Center is available at: www.nasa.gov/returntoflight




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