Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Shuttle tank struggle

NASA has announced it will install a new set of stringers in the affected area of the shuttle Discovery External Tank (ET) to take the load off suspect ones. I really didn't like this when I read it: I would have said take the stack apart, install the next available tank, and send this one back to the manufacturer to be overhauled. However, NASAWatch's Keith Cowing publishes a comment from former Shuttle manager Wayne Hale that explains the rationale:
"...until root cause is understood, all the remaining tanks are suspect; going to the next tank in line would likely have the same condition. Understanding the cause and fixing all the remaining tanks is required. Second, this is hardly a hurry up launch fever situation. The shuttle team is methodically working through the problem. They have delayed the launch from early November repeatedly because the solution is not in hand. They are exercising very good judgment and not rushing. Working through difficult engineering problems can be painful to watch, but my observation is that they are doing what is prudent and proper."

Good luck, guys.

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