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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Dec 6, 2005 19:44:34 GMT -6
NASA Likely To Fly Next Shuttle Sans Foam Ramp
WASHINGTON - NASA is leaning toward flying its next space shuttle mission without the protective foam ramp that broke away from Discovery's external tank during its July return to flight, according to a spokesman for the U.S. space agency.
Shuttle officials plan to meet again this month to evaluate the Protuberance Air Load (PAL) ramp issue and possibly reach a decision.
"The data from the ongoing engineering analysis on the PAL ramp seems to be pointing in the direction of not flying with the PAL ramp for STS-121," said NASA spokesman Allard Beutel, referring to Discovery's next mission, tentatively slated for May 2006.
Beutel said eliminating the PAL ramp would not in and of itself jeopardize the May launch opportunity, provided that wind tunnel testing now being planned for February confirms that it is safe to fly without the structure.
The PAL ramp was added to the external tank early the program's history to provide a windbreak for a cable tray that runs along the tank.