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ExoLance
NASA studying shuttle RCC problem
Posted: Thu, Oct 11, 2007, 5:20 AM ET (0920 GMT)
STS-120: logo (NASA) NASA officials are investigating a potential problem with several leading-edge wing panels on the shuttle Discovery that could force an extended launch delay. Shuttle engineers has been studying for some time a degradation in the silicon carbide coating on three reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) panels on the leading edges of the shuttle's wings, thought to be caused by oxidation, but had previously concluded that the degradation has stabilized. A separate analysis by the NASA Engineering and Safety Center, though, argued that oxidation was not the cause of the panel's degradation and thus NASA could not assume the situation would remain stable, and therefore recommended that the panels be replaced. The replacement process would require rolling the shuttle back to the VAB and would delay the launch by weeks. A decision on whether to replace the panels is not expected before the mission's flight readiness review next week. Discovery otherwise remains on track for a launch on October 23.
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