NASA to Ship Shuttle Fuel Tank
External Tank-119 (ET-119), set to fuel NASA's Discovery orbiter during STS-121 mission later this year, is prepared to be shipped to Kennedy Space Center from Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
Credit: Lockheed Martin.

CAPE CANAVERAL - Kennedy Space Center is preparing to receive a shuttle fuel tank and get it ready for a May launch. The tank is expected to ship out of New Orleans this morning.

Officials originally said the tank would ship Friday from the Michoud Assembly Facility, but work was done on the tank Thursday night, and the insulating foam had to cure for several hours.

Friday, the tank was rolling out of its processing facility to be loaded on the barge. It should arrive at Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday or Thursday.

This tank is shipping without some stretches of foam that flew on earlier tanks. That foam was used to protect cables running up the tank.

The foam on this tank was removed as a safety precaution after a piece of it fell off during Discovery's launch last summer, raising fears of a Columbia-type accident.

Managers plan wind tunnel tests and more analysis to prove the modification is safe before final approval for a May launch can be given.

"We're not going to do anything that will prevent any additional work in that area," NASA spokesman Bruce Buckingham said at Kennedy Space Center. "It's possible the tank will be ready to fly as-is, depending on what the program decides."

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