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NASA: We have reduced the risk of falling ice on the shuttle to an acceptable level

Avi Blizovsky

Discovery is looking good for the July launch

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Impact of ice blocks on the heat shield still seems possible but the risk is now low enough that shuttle launches can be safely resumed. This is what NASA officials stated.
"The recommendation is that we are currently at an acceptable level of risk and that the launch procedures can be continued," said Bill Parsons, director of the shuttle program at NASA. "I received the presser and now we are moving on with the launch procedures," he said.
The decision, made after a full day of deliberations at the Florida spaceport on Friday, removes the final hurdle to NASA's plan to launch Discovery on July 13 at the earliest for its first flight since the Columbia disaster, when it was hit during launch by a block of ice that caused a crack in the wing through which a hot air chamber When returning to the atmosphere
The final decision will be made this week, following an extensive readiness report and a summary of the findings of a team examining NASA's efforts to renew the flights.
A few months ago, the engineers became increasingly concerned that the ice that builds up on the outside of the external fuel tank after filling it with liquid oxygen and hydrogen could cause damage to the shuttle if it falls on it along with parts of the tank's insulating foam.

The numbers game
The analysis showed that ice hitting the shuttle's heat shield tiles was the highest risk factor, mission managers said Friday, but more information would be needed to assess the risk. "Constant vigilance is required," said John Merotor, who manages the field of engineering and systems integration in the shuttle program. However, despite the uncertainties, NASA said that it is ready to continue the launch. "As far as Discovery is concerned, I believe our concerns should be reduced. We are ready for the flight" said Murator.
The officials refused to put a number on the risk of damage to the heat shield, saying that there are too many variables in the game for a statistical assessment to be developed. "This is not a single number," Murator said. "Unlike in blackjack, if there are 15, my chances of winning are one way or another."
"The chance of a single major damage to the heat shield was reduced by orders of magnitude when we added additional heaters near the top of the outer tank to prevent ice from forming around the liquid oxygen feed lines below them." added It was this preparatory work that caused NASA to postpone the flight from May to mid-July.
For news at the BBC
Ydan "back to flight"

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