Shuttle Fuel Tank Workers Ding Foam Insulation

Shuttle Fuel Tank Workers Ding Foam Insulation
Lockheed Martin technicians from NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana inspect and clean the area around the "manhole" on the external tank designated for mission STS-121. (Image credit: NASA/Jim Grossman.)

CAPE CANAVERAL - Workers onTuesday dinged foam on an external fuel tank scheduled to fly with the shuttlein July.

They were preparing toreplace a gaseous oxygen vent valve near the nose and were repositioning ahalogen lamp when it hit the tank, causing "extremely minor" damageto the insulating foam, NASA spokeswoman Jessica Rye said.

Work continues on the bottomof the tank, in Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building, astechnicians replace problematic engine cutoff sensors.

The workers are from theLockheed Martin-run Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, which makes theexternal tanks.

Work at the top is on hold.

"We're in the processof completing a detailed inspection of the area before we'd be able todetermine what, if any, repairs are required," Michoud spokesman MarionLaNasa said.

"We have a significantamount of experience repairing damage in this area of the ET."

Last year, he said, birdsdamaged foam near the nose of a tank, and the foam was repaired, though thattank didn't fly for other reasons.

"We don't think thisis going to be any impact or concern at this point," Rye said.

There are two currentinvestigations into recent accidents at KSC. In one, a construction worker fell off a roofand died from his injuries.

In another, a shuttle robot arm wasdinged.

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Chris Kridler
Contributing Writer

Chris Kridler is a writer, editor, photographer and storm chaser who authored a group of storm-chasing adventure novels called Storm Seekers. As a reporter covering space, her subjects have included space shuttle missions, the Mars Rovers from California’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and a Soyuz launch and mission from Kazakhstan and Russia. Much of that work was published through her longtime column at Florida Today. Her photographs have been featured in magazines and books, including the covers of The Journal of Meteorology, the book Winderful, and the Wallace and Hobbs Atmospheric Science textbook. She has also been featured in Popular Photography. Kridler started chasing tornadoes in 1997, and continues the adventure every spring in Tornado Alley.