At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians at Launch Pad 39A
are making additional imaging scans of parts of space shuttle Discovery’s
external tank. On Dec. 2, technicians scanned metal support beams,
called stringers, on the external tank’s exterior in an area called the intertank.
Workers used a backscatter device, which bounces radiation off the tank. The scans
allow engineers to see below the foam insulation on the tank and look for any issues,
such as cracks. Two stringers developed small cracks as the tank was being filled
for Discovery’s launch attempt on Nov. 5 for its STS-133 mission to the
International Space Station. The stringers have since been repaired.
The backscatter scans will help in the engineering analysis that shuttle managers
will use to decide Discovery’s next launch opportunity.