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Crawler problem could delay Atlantis launch
Posted: Tue, Aug 13, 2002, 9:05 AM ET (1305 GMT)
STS-112 patch (NASA) Cracked bearings discovered in the two "crawlers" used to transport the shuttle to the launch pad could delay next month's launch of the shuttle Atlantis, NASA officials announced Monday. A routine inspection of cylinders used to keep the crawler's platform level turned up several severely cracked bearings. An inspection of all the cylinders in both crawlers found that nearly half the bearings in each crawler were cracked. The cause of the cracked bearings is unknown: the crawlers were first used in the Apollo program and are nearly 40 years old, so it is possible the bearings were damaged years ago and not noticed before now. Engineers are looking into ways to repair the crawlers and have at least one working by the time Atlantis is rolled out to the launch pad for its launch, scheduled for September 28. If extensive repairs are needed for both crawlers, though, it could delay the launch. The problem with the crawlers was announced at the same time officials said welding of cracks in the flow liners of the fuel lines in Atlantis had been completed; the orbiter's three main engines will be installed on Thursday.
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