Shuttle External Tank Ready for Trip

December 30, 2004
External Tank 120

The momentum towards NASA's Return to Flight continues to build, as the huge, rust-colored External Tank that will propel the Shuttle Discovery into space prepares to make its journey to the Kennedy Space Center.

Image: Workers guide External Tank 120 into the Vertical Assembly Building at Michoud Assembly Facility. Credit: NASA.

The tank, known as ET-120, is set to leave the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans by barge on Friday, Dec. 31 for a four to five day journey through the Gulf of Mexico to Florida. The external tank is the largest element of the Space Shuttle system at 27.6-feet wide and 154-feet tall, and the only part that isn't reused. During the first eight-and-a-half minutes of launch, the tank feeds 535,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen to the Shuttle's three main engines, powering the Shuttle to space during ascent.

ET-120 is the first tank to incorporate safety improvements to address the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's recommendation to reduce the risk to the Shuttle from falling debris during ascent. Investigators believe that during Columbia's launch in January 2003, insulating foam from the bipod area fell off the External Tank and damaged the left wing of the Orbiter.

The External Tank move follows other recent Return to Flight milestones, like the stacking of Solid Rocket Boosters and installation of Discovery's main engines.

The Return to Flight mission, designated STS-114, is targeted for a launch opportunity beginning in May 2005. The seven-member Discovery crew will fly to the International Space Station primarily to test and evaluate new procedures for flight safety, including Space Shuttle inspection and repair techniques.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Space Shuttle External Tank ET-128 Sets New Performance Standard During STS-124 Mission

Related Stories

NASA Ships External Fuel Tank for Next Space Shuttle Mission

February 27, 2006

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans, workers at the nearby NASA Michoud Assembly Facility persevered through their own personal hardships to deliver a newly designed external fuel tank for ...

NASA Puts Space Shuttle External Tank to the Test

April 15, 2005

NASA engineers and managers are evaluating the data from today's Space Shuttle Discovery External Tank (ET) tanking test at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla. The tanking test was yet another milestone in NASA's efforts to ...

Hail damages Atlantis space shuttle's external fuel tank

February 27, 2007

A strong thunderstorm with hail passed through NASA's Kennedy Space Center launch complex area about 5 p.m. EST Monday. The remote cameras indicate some damage to the external tank, but a full assessment on the scene is just ...

Damage eyed as shuttle heads toward space station

July 16, 2009

(AP) -- Space shuttle Endeavour rocketed toward the international space station Thursday as engineers on Earth pored over launch pictures that showed debris breaking off the fuel tank and striking the craft.

Recommended for you


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.