Shuttle launch on schedule despite launch pad accident

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Discovery being rolled out

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The 'Return to Flight' mission for the Space Shuttle Discovery is to go ahead later today despite an accident on the launch pad yesterday.

At about 5pm EDT Tuesday one of Discovery's cockpit window covers became detached and fell sixty feet. The falling cover struck the left Orbital Maneuvering System pod (situated to one side of the tail fin), damaging several thermal protection tiles. The tiles provide vital protection to the Orbiter as it makes its fiery re-entry to Earth's atmosphere.

A replacement panel was fitted in less than an hour, with the only effect being a delay in rolling back the pad's Rotating Service Structure.


This has been the only issue in the build up to today's launch, the first Shuttle flight since the Columbia Orbiter broke up during re-entry in February 2003. All crew were lost in that incident, which has been blamed on damage to a wing thermal protection system panel, caused by a block of fuel tank insulation that became detached and hit the Orbiter during the first moments of flight.

Discovery is due to take off at 3.51pm EDT today. The chance of a weather-related delay to the launch has increased to 40% - due to the possibility of thunderstorms in the area.


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News Brief: 13 Jul 2005 - 1415 (UTC)