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Shuttle Scrub

Bolt Problem Scraps Shuttle Launch

.c The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - NASA called off Thursday night's launch of space 
shuttle Discovery because of last-minute concerns over bolts on the external 
fuel tank. 

The launch - the 100th of the space shuttle program - was bumped to Friday 
night at the earliest. 

While analyzing film of Atlantis' Sept. 8 launch on Wednesday, engineers 
noticed that one of the three bolts between Atlantis and the external fuel 
tank did not retract properly eight minutes into the flight. Photographs 
showed about 2 inches of the 14-inch bolt sticking out on the tank. 

Engineers reviewed the film again Thursday but could not determine what 
happened. As a result, the countdown was halted, just as fueling was to 
begin. The astronauts had not yet boarded the shuttle. 

NASA wants to make sure the problem does not occur on Discovery. Engineers 
also are scrambling to determine the impact of such a problem. At worst, a 
protruding bolt could cause the separated fuel tank to tumble and possibly 
cause the tank to slam into the shuttle. 

Space shuttles are launched with two solid-fuel boosters, which are 
jettisoned two minutes after takeoff, plus the larger, rust-colored fuel 
tank, which is discarded into the ocean after the shuttle reaches orbit. 

The film depicting the problem with the tank's bolt did not become available 
until Atlantis returned to Earth on Sept. 20. The troublesome bolt can't be 
studied directly; it's at the bottom of the ocean. 

``We think it's prudent to stand down for a day to give our engineers time to 
review the data, to review the rationale for flight and to move slowly and 
with all due concern for this issue,'' said shuttle manager James Halsell. 
``In other words, we do not want to get 'go fever. 

Discovery is loaded with two new pieces for the international space station, 
a girderlike truss and a docking port for future shuttle visits. 

The 18,000-pound truss contains antennas and motion-control gyroscopes. The 
seven-member shuttle crew will use the shuttle robot arm to attach the truss 
and docking port to the space station. The astronauts will go out on four 
back-to-back spacewalks to wire up the pieces. 

Astronauts have not hooked up major pieces to the space station since the 
initial components were launched in 1998. The last three shuttle visits were 
essentially supply runs. 

Once Discovery's 11-day mission is completed, the space station's first 
permanent crew will be able to move in. 

NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd and two Russian cosmonauts are scheduled to lift 
off from Kazakstan on Oct. 30. They will spend four months aboard the space 
station before returning to Earth via the space shuttle. A new three-person 
crew will take their place. 

Shepherd and his crewmates are in Russia preparing for their flight. 

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