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Shuttle's External Tank Readied for Test

Technicians at Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, install strain gauges on space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank. The ET will undergo a tanking test no earlier than Dec. 17 to help determine the cause of, and verify repairs to cracks on the tops of two 21-foot-long, U-shaped aluminum brackets, called stringers. The tank will be loaded with super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, causing it to shrink by about half an inch. A total of 89 strain gauges and temperature sensors will be installed to precisely record movement and temperatures from the external tank's ribbed intertank area as it chills and warms again during the fuel loading and emptying process. Managers and engineers will review the data gathered from the instrumented test before determining the next course of action. Discovery's next launch opportunity is no earlier than Feb. 3 at 1:34 a.m. EST.
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