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Allard Beutel/Katherine Trinidad
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-4769, -3749)

June Malone
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256/544-0034)

August 10, 2005
NASA Updates Media on Space Shuttle External Tank Work
NASA will update reporters on the work of two engineering teams looking into why a large piece of External Tank insulating foam broke off during Space Shuttle Discovery's liftoff. International Space Station Program Manager Bill Gerstenmaier, who is leading the effort, will speak with the media Thursday, Aug. 11, at 2 p.m. EDT via telephone conference call.

Media interested in participating in the event should contact Ashley Nutter, NASA Public Affairs, by noon EDT Thursday at 202/358-0468.

Audio of the teleconference also will be streamed live on the Internet at:

The engineering teams already have begun work to understand the causes behind the foam loss, which was identified in imagery taken during Discovery's launch July 26. The first team, known as the Marshall Action Team, was set up by the Space Shuttle Program to look at the in-flight anomaly of the foam loss. The team is led by Dr. Raymond "Corky" Clinton of the Exploration Science and Technology Division based at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Huntsville, Ala. The team includes some of the agency's top experts on the Space Shuttle External Tank, as well as contractors. Work is divided among five sub-teams.

The Marshall Action Team has begun working through a fault-tree analysis, a methodical look at nearly all possible causes of an incident. Once that work is complete, the group is expected to produce a plan to address the cause of the foam loss.

The second team, known as the External Tank Tiger Team, was chartered by the Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington to perform an independent engineering assessment of work to resolve the foam loss issue. The tiger team will participate in and review work done by the Marshall Action Team. As necessary, the team will make recommendations to NASA Space Operations and Safety management.

In NASA parlance, a "tiger team" is a panel set up to work on a specific issue or task. In this case, the tiger team brings together engineering expertise from around the agency. Its leader is Dr. Richard Gilbrech, deputy director of the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC), Langley, Va. The Tiger Team's work does not specifically fall under NESC activities, but Gilbrech's experience at NESC is expected to help the Tiger Team in its oversight role.

Members of the External Tank Tiger Team are:
--David Hamilton, NESC Chief Engineer, Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston
--Dr. Michael P. Nemeth, Langley Research Center, Langley, Va.
--Dr. Donald Pettit, Astronaut, JSC
--Dr. Charles Schafer, MSFC
--Timmy Wilson, NESC Chief Engineer, Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla.
--Harry Dean, MSFC, Close-Call Investigation Ex-Officio Member

On August 5, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin discussed the teams' work with reporters. A transcript is available at:


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