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Shuttle Discovery's External Tank Undergoes Modifications and More

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians in the Vehicle Assembly Building make modifications to 34 support beams, called stringers, on space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank. To increase the structural support of the stringers, crews fit pieces of metal, called radius blocks, over the tops of the stringers' edges at the external tank's thrust panel area. The thrust panel areas, which see the most stress during the flight into orbit, are located at the attachment points between the tank and the solid rocket boosters. ?In addition, teams also are performing scans on all of the tank's stringers using a backscatter device that bounces radiation off the tank, allowing engineers to see beneath the foam insulation. Crews also are repairing small cracks on three stringers on the side of the tank opposite Discovery that were detected in late December. The repairs are similar to repairs made on cracks found on two stringers after Discovery's Nov. 5 launch attempt.
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