Within a few hours of Tuesday’s launch of Shuttle Discovery, pictures were released that show foam insulation on the main fuel tank coming loose and impacting the shuttle.
The images also showed that several surprisingly big pieces of foam broke off the tank’s bipod area where a pair of struts connects the tank to the orbiter.
Remote camera inspections performed by the shuttle crew today showed a small amount of tile damage to the shuttle’s nose tiles, but NASA officials said that it was minor, and not a concern.
However, Shuttle Program Manager Bill Parsons, speaking at a press briefing this afternoon said:
“We had a debris event on the PAL ramp along the LOX field line – below the point where the LH2 ramp begins. Our expectation is that we would not have an unexpected debris event. The PAL ramp is one area we should have reviewed.
We knew we would have to remove the PAL ramp. We did not have enough data to be safe and remove it. We had very few problems with it so we decided that it was safe to fly it as is. Clearly, with the event we had, we were wrong.
Until [this issue] is closed we will not fly again. Might as well let that out now. Until we are ready we will not fly again. I do not know when that will be. This is a test flight. Obviously we have more work to do.
Obviously we cannot fly with PAL ramps coming off the way that this one did.
We need to go off and fix it.”
Not such a perfect launch after all.
The scheduled September flight of Shuttle Atlantis has been put on indefinite hold.