Friday, February 25, 2011

NASA Not Concerned About Foam Strikes

STS-133 Discovery launches Thursday from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Photo source: NASA.

Florida Today reports that NASA believes the foam strikes that occurred during Thursday's launch of Discovery are not a concern.

Launch videos showed a sizeable piece of insulating foam break away from the shuttle's repaired external tank and strike the orbiter's underside nearly four minutes into flight.

But NASA said each of four recorded incidents of foam loss happened late enough during the ascent that they carried very little force and there was no concern about damage.

A later report indicates that a routine inspection will begin today to look for any damage.

Today's work in space will focus on inspections of Discovery's heat shields using a 50-foot boom equipped with cameras and sensors attached to the shuttle's robotic arm. The standard post-Columbia procedure is scheduled to begin around 11 a.m.

Images taken today will be analyzed by teams on the ground for a couple of days, and a closer inspection could be ordered later in the mission if any damage is found.

A foam strike on the left wing led to the destruction of Columbia on February 1, 2003.

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