- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Despite concerns raised by some engineers, NASA said yesterday that it plans to put off any further design changes to the shuttle’s external fuel tank until after Discovery’s flight in July.

The space agency had been considering changing the design of the tank’s so-called ice frost ramps to stop insulating foam from falling off.

NASA already has removed 37 pounds of foam from two other areas on the tank — a modification that space shuttle program manager Wayne Hale described as “the largest aerodynamic change we have made to the space shuttle launch system since it first flew.”

NASA’s top leaders decided to see how those changes hold up during the next launch before making any further alterations, Mr. Hale said. NASA planned to continue analyzing data from wind tunnel tests on the tank to make sure it’s safe to fly with the new changes.

The decision against further alterations was not unanimous. NASA chief safety officer Bryan O’Connor initially preferred modifying the ice frost ramps before the shuttle flew. But Mr. Hale said Mr. O’Connor ultimately concurred with the final decision.

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