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Landing Gear Inspections Delay Shuttle Discovery's Rollback

NASA Fuels Discovery's External Tank in Test
The space shuttle Discovery sits atop Launch Pad 39B during its initial fueling test of its external tank for NASA's STS-114 mission.
(Image: © NASA/KSC.)

CAPE CANAVERAL - -- ShuttleDiscovery will stay at the launch pad a few extra days so inspectors can checkits landing gear for cracks.

Kennedy Space Centerworkers recently spotted tiny cracks in sistership Atlantis' landing gear, andNASA wants to make sure the flaw is not fleetwide before Discovery flies thefirst shuttle mission since the 2003 Columbia catastrophe, agency spokeswomanJessica Rye said Sunday.

A crawler-transporter wasto haulDiscovery back to the Vehicle Assembly Building early Tuesday morning. Now,rollback is set for Friday.

Meanwhile, inspectors willuse a borescope -- a rigid tube with a camera on its end -- to peer inside thewheel well looking for gear defects.

Engineering photographs ofDiscovery's gear, taken before the shuttle rolled to the launch pad, show nocracks. Engineers want another look. The reason: The gear is critical to thesafety of the shuttle. The cracked part in Atlantis' gear is the uplockmechanism, a hook of sorts that keeps the landing gear in place during flightbut must work so the wheels deploy properly as the orbiter glides to therunway.

After the inspection, NASAplans an auxiliary power unit test-firing Wednesday and rollback on Friday.Once back inside the VAB, shuttle workers will move Discovery from one set oftank and solid rocket boosters to another modified to resolve concerns about icedebris and a glitchy valve. Current planscall for Discovery to return to the pad in mid-June and launch sometime betweenJuly 13 and July 31.

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