Discovery Set to Launch No Earlier Than Feb. 24

Repair work to space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank begins in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Technicians will modify 32 support beams, called stringers, on the tank's intertank region by fitting pieces of metal, called radius blocks, over the stringers' edges where they attach to the thrust panel area. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller


Space shuttle Discovery remains in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) as modifications and repairs are made to the external fuel tank’s support beams known as “stringers.” Additional support structures called radius blocks are being added to 95 stringers, meaning the entire circumference of the external tank will be strengthened by the time all the repairs and modifications are finished.

“It’s been a long road,” said John Shannon, Space Shuttle Program manager. “I’m very confident we have it finally figured out and we have a fix. We’re going to fly with a lot of confidence in this tank.”

Discovery will not launch on the STS-133 mission before Feb. 24, but shuttle managers have not yet chosen a target date for the mission. The schedule depends in part on traffic at the International Space Station during that time frame. A European cargo spacecraft, ATV-2, is scheduled to launch to the station Feb. 15 carrying supplies and equipment.