Workers at the NASA's Orbiter Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center install a 50-foot orbital inspection boom in the shuttle Discovery's payload bay. The boom will be used with the orbiter's robotic manipulator arm (bottom right) to inspect Discovery's thermal protection system during NASA's first return to launch flight currently set for May 2005.
"I was very excited, and so was everybody else, because it is a major milestone," said United Space Alliance's Mike Olejarski, who manages the people who installed the boom.
Once the shuttle is in orbit, the robot arm, which is on the opposite side of the orbiter's payload bay, will maneuver the inspection boom to look for the kind of damage that led to Columbia's destruction. The arm and the boom extension were made in Canada.
The Columbia Accident Investigation Board deemed the ability to inspect the orbiter in space essential for the shuttles' return to flight.
After painstaking preparations Monday, workers attached the 50-foot-long boom to two hooks dangling from a crane embedded in the building's ceiling. The hooks slowly lifted the boom over the scaffolding that surrounds Discovery, then lowered it into place.
Olejarski said workers would close the payload doors to make sure the boom fits as expected. They would test its electronics.
The move took place in the hangar where workers are readying Discovery to lead the shuttle fleet back to space in May.
"We're counting down the days," Olejarski said.
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