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CAIB issues preliminary recommendations for shuttle
Posted: Thu, Apr 17, 2003, 1:43 PM ET (1743 GMT)
The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) issued a pair of preliminary recommendations Thursday regarding the inspection of portions of shuttle thermal protection system as well as on-orbit imaging of orbiters. The board recommended to NASA that it develop a "comprehensive inspection plan to determine the structural integrity of all Reinforce Carbon-Carbon (RCC) system components" prior to returning the shuttle to flight. A piece of foam from the shuttle's external tank, striking one or more weakened RCC panels on the leading edge of Columbia’s left wing, is the current leading explanation for how hot gases got into the orbiter during reentry. The board also recommended to NASA that it rework an existing agreement with the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) so that on-orbit imaging of future shuttle flights becomes a "standard requirement." NASA and NIMA signed an agreement last month whereby NIMA agreed to take images of shuttles in orbit during "targets of opportunity" only. The CAIB is expected to release its final report and complete set of recommendations by June. In an interview with SPACE.com published Thursday, NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe said it was not "an unreasonable proposition" to return the shuttle to flight by the end of this year.
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