Technicians working on space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are off for the New Year holiday weekend. On Monday, they'll begin repairs on three support beams, called stringers, that recently were detected to have small cracks on their tops.
Engineers at various NASA centers continue to analyze data from testing and X-ray type image scans collected during the past week of all 108 stringers on the outside of the external tank's intertank section. The image scans showed four small cracks on three stringers on the opposite side of the tank from Discovery. Managers decided Thursday to have those cracks repaired in a similar fashion to repairs made on cracks on two stringers found after Discovery's Nov. 5 launch attempt.
The repair work is estimated to take 2–3 days. Any further work will be evaluated thoroughly during the week after additional data and analysis are reviewed.
Managers also continue to evaluate an option to perform known and practiced modifications on some stringers. Before breaking for the holiday, technicians reconfigured scaffolding to provide access for the modification work, should it be required. A decision may be made on that work as early as Monday.