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NASA APPROVES NEW DESIGN FOR SHUTTLE



Submitted by Arthur - N1ORC - Amsat A/C #31468

Allard Beutel
Headquarters, Washington                     July 26, 2004
(Phone: 202/358-4769)

June Malone
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256/544-0034)

RELEASE: 04-240

NASA APPROVES NEW DESIGN FOR SHUTTLE EXTERNAL TANK FITTING

     NASA is moving ahead with plans to redesign a part of 
the Space Shuttle external fuel tank that investigators 
believe played a critical role in the Space Shuttle Columbia 
accident. The Space Shuttle program will soon begin 
manufacturing and installing an improved bipod fitting, which 
connects the external fuel tank to the Shuttle during launch.

A Critical Design Review Board of NASA managers, engineers 
and aerospace contractors last month approved the new design, 
a significant milestone in the effort to return the Shuttle 
to safe flight. The approval allows workers to begin 
incorporating the new fitting on External Tank No. 120, the 
tank slated for flight on the next Shuttle mission, 
designated STS-114.

Investigators believe that during Columbia's launch in 
January 2003, insulating foam from the bipod area fell off 
the external tank and damaged the left wing of the Space 
Shuttle. The new design addresses the Columbia Accident 
Investigation Board recommendation to reduce the risk to the 
Shuttle from falling debris during liftoff.  It eliminates 
the foam covering from the bipod fitting and replaces it with 
four rod-shaped heaters. The heaters will serve the same 
primary function as the foam, preventing ice buildup on the 
tank's bipod fittings.

"This is a fix that really gets to the root of the technical 
problems that caused the loss of Columbia," said Michael 
Kostelnik, NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for 
International Space Station and Space Shuttle Programs.  "By 
eliminating this debris source, as well as potential debris 
from other areas, we are making the Shuttle a safer 
spacecraft."

The External Tank Project Office at NASA's Marshall Space 
Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., first began developing 
redesign concepts for the bipod fitting after insulating foam 
from the left bipod ramp area detached during the October 
2002 launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis.

The newly designed heaters will be placed below the fitting, 
in covers made of a strong alloy composed of nickel, chromium 
and iron. They will sit on top of a copper plate sandwiched 
between the fitting and a hard, dense material that separates 
the heater from the tank.

The design will be retrofitted on the 11 existing tanks and 
incorporated into the manufacture of all new tanks. Lockheed 
Martin Space Systems will do the work at NASA's Michoud 
Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Delivery of the retrofitted 
tanks to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, is expected in 
October.

For still photos on the Internet of the redesigned bipod 
fitting, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/returntoflight

Video b-roll of the new bipod will air on NASA Television 
during the Video File segment starting at noon EDT today. 
Beginning July 24, NASA Television will be seen in the 
continental United States on AMC-6, at 72 degrees west 
longitude, Transponder 9, 3880 MHz, vertical polarization, 
audio at 6.8 MHz. If you live in Alaska or Hawaii, NASA TV 
will now be seen on AMC-7, at 137 degrees west longitude, 
Transponder 18, at 4060 MHz, vertical polarization, audio at 
6.8 MHz.

For information about NASA TV, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

More information on NASA's human space flight programs is 
available at:

http://www.nasa.gov

-end-
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