NASA Ships Shuttle Fuel Tank To New Orleans For Modification

Sep 28, 2005

Less than a month after being hit by Hurricane Katrina, NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans is gearing up to restart processing space shuttle fuel tanks. The work will address foam loss during Space Shuttle Discovery's launch in July.

External tank #119, which is expected to be used in the next shuttle mission, departed NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida Tuesday. The huge, orange external tank is being transported by NASA's solid rocket booster retrieval ship Freedom Star.

It will travel down Florida's Banana River en route to the Gulf of Mexico-Mississippi River outlet on its 900-mile journey. It's expected to arrive at Michoud in four or five days.

"The facility is ready to receive the tank and the Michoud team is eager to get their hands on it," said External Tank Project Manager Sandy Coleman.

Michoud workers will begin limited testing on the tank as soon as it arrives. Hurricane recovery efforts at the facility have progressed better than anticipated. Power has been restored to the entire Michoud complex, and temporary repairs have been made to damaged buildings. External tank #120 will be shipped from Kennedy to the facility in the next few weeks.

The external tank, 27.6 feet wide and 154 feet tall, is the largest element of the shuttle system, which also includes the orbiter, main engines and solid rocket boosters. Despite the tank's size, its aluminum skin is only one-eighth-inch thick in most areas, but withstands more than 6.5 million pounds of thrust during liftoff and ascent. The tank is the only shuttle component that cannot be reused.

During a launch, the external tank delivers 535,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen propellants to the three main engines, which power the shuttle to orbit. The tank is covered by polyurethane-like foam, with an average thickness of about one inch. The foam insulates the propellants, keeps ice from forming on the tank's exterior and protects its aluminum skin from aerodynamic heat during flight.

The Space Shuttle Propulsion Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center manages the tank project. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., New Orleans, is the primary contractor.

Photos of the external tank's departure are available online. Additional photos will be added to the page as they are available at:

Copyright 2005 by Space Daily, Distributed United Press International

Explore further: Fermi finds a 'transformer' pulsar

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New NASA rocket faces delays

Sep 11, 2013

The debut launch of NASA's next big rocket - now slated for 2017 - likely will be delayed a year or two because the agency simply does not have the money to finish the rocket and its accompanying crew capsule on time, a top ...

MILA tracks its last launch and landing

Jul 08, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- With its beginnings rooted deeply in the historic days of Apollo, the MILA Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network Station has played a key role throughout the 30 years of the Space Shuttle ...

Recommended for you

Fermi finds a 'transformer' pulsar

10 hours ago

(Phys.org) —In late June 2013, an exceptional binary containing a rapidly spinning neutron star underwent a dramatic change in behavior never before observed. The pulsar's radio beacon vanished, while at ...

New launch date set for ISS delivery vessel

11 hours ago

A robot ship will be launched from Kourou, French Guiana, after a five-day delay on July 29 to deliver provisions to the International Space Station, space transport firm Arianespace said Tuesday.

The heart of an astronaut, five years on

12 hours ago

The heart of an astronaut is a much-studied thing. Scientists have analyzed its blood flow, rhythms, atrophy and, through journal studies, even matters of the heart. But for the first time, researchers are ...

User comments : 0