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May 13, 1999

James Hartsfield
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

Release: J99-16

Space Shuttle Launch Advisory: Discovery Launch Postponed to Repair Fuel Tank Hail Damage

Space Shuttle managers today postponed the launch of Discovery for at least one week to permit technicians to repair foam insulation on the external fuel tank that was damaged by a severe hail storm last weekend.

Previously scheduled for May 20, Discovery's launch on Shuttle mission STS-96 will be delayed for a minimum of at least a week to no earlier than May 27. Managers will schedule a new target launch date once the repairs are nearing completion, probably by the middle of next week.

Discovery will be moved from the launch pad back to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center to allow repair workers to gain access to some areas of the tank that cannot be reached at the pad. The hail storm caused several small indentations in the tank's foam insulation and managers are concerned that the areas could form ice when the tank is filled with super-cold propellants for launch. Such areas of ice could cause debris damage to the Shuttle after liftoff. Similar repairs to the external fuel tank's foam insulation were performed once before, prior to Shuttle mission STS-70 in July 1995.


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