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Shuttle grounding

Copied to clear up confusion shown here re status of Shuttle fleet and 
reasons for grounding. RN
Space Shuttle Fleet Grounded -NASA
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - NASA's fleet of space shuttles, grounded as 
inspectors inch their way through trouble-plagued wiring on each orbiter, 
will not carry out further missions until mid-October at the earliest, the 
U.S. space agency said Saturday.

The fleet of four orbiters has been grounded since a harrowing lift-off of 
shuttle Columbia in July. Astronauts and ground controllers wrestled 
throughout the eight-minute flight to space with power failures to two of the 
computers controlling Columbia's three main engines. The shuttle was one 
short-circuit away from a never-before attempted emergency abort.

That led to electrical inspections on the entire shuttle fleet, and 
technicians have discovered enough problems, including faulty insulation and 
frayed wires, that mission managers have decided not to schedule any more 
flights until the work is complete, said NASA spokesman Bruce Buckingham.

``The work is progressing well,'' said Buckingham, but technicians have not 
been able to predict how long the job will take. ``It's anticipated that no 
mission could technically be ready for launch before mid-October at the 

NASA said damage had been found inside each orbiter, something unexpected 
until Columbia's troublesome lift-off.

So far, inspectors have found 38 electrical defects on shuttle Endeavour and 
26 aboard shuttle Discovery. Comprehensive inspections of Columbia, the 
oldest shuttle in the fleet, and Atlantis, the youngest, will begin later 
this month, NASA said.

``Our focus is to be absolutely certain that we do our very best to find, fix 
and prevent any recurrence of this problem,'' Ron Dittemore, NASA's shuttle 
program manager said in a release.

Before the inspections began, Endeavour had been scheduled to lift-off 
September 16 on a 10-day science mission, with Discovery set to fly sometime 
before October 15 on a repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Launch 
targets for both those missions were put in limbo once the inspections were 

NASA said many of the electrical defects were caused over the years as 
technicians performed their pre-launch and post-launch routines inside the 
shuttles, often stepping on wires or inadvertently nicking them. Other 
defects were caused by wires rubbing against metal surfaces.

The space agency said it was revising service procedures in light of the 
discoveries and plans to schedule more electrical inspections in the future. 
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