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Hurricane could delay next shuttle mission
Posted: Thu, Sep 1, 2005, 1:55 PM ET (1755 GMT)
Michoud Assembly Facility (Lockheed Martin) Extensive damage to the Gulf Coast caused by Hurricane Katrina this week could force NASA to delay the next space shuttle launch from March 2006 until at least May. While the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the shuttle's external tanks are assembled, escaped the storm with only modest damage, far more extensive damage to homes and infrastructure could keep the plant from returning to normal for weeks. A NASA statement late Wednesday indicated that the area around Michoud was flooded with water, preventing access to the site except by helicopter; the site also has no electrical power and limited communications. NASA has delayed shipping to Michoud the external tank to be used on the STS-121; workers there were to modify the tank to prevent foam from falling off the tank as seen during the STS-114 launch in July. UPI reported Wednesday that unless the modified tank is shipped back to KSC by mid-November — which now appears unlikely given the current situation — NASA will have to slip the STS-121 launch to the next launch window, in May 2006. The same report indicated that NASA was already planning on a May launch, and shifting external tank work to Florida.
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