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03.14.06

Katherine Trinidad
Headquarters, Washington
(202) 358-3749

James Hartsfield/Kyle Herring
Johnson Space Center, Houston
(281) 483-5111

RELEASE: 06-092

NASA ANNOUNCES NEW WINDOW FOR NEXT SPACE SHUTTLE MISSION

NASA announced today July 1 to 19, 2006, is the new launch planning
window for Space Shuttle Discovery’s mission (STS-121). The window
gives the agency time to do additional engineering work and analysis
to ensure a safe flight for Discovery and its crew.

Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale made the announcement during
a news conference from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The
decision to target July followed a two-day meeting on the external
fuel tank’s engine cutoff (ECO) sensors. The sensors indicate
whether
the tank still has fuel during liftoff. During testing, one of the
four ECO sensors had a slightly different reading than is expected.
Shuttle officials have decided they will remove and replace all four
liquid hydrogen sensors.

“We’ve been saying for months that our engineering work would
determine when we fly our next mission. Targeting July is the right
choice in order to make smart decisions,” said Bill Gerstenmaier,
NASA associate administrator for Space Operations.

Other issues factored into the decision to adjust the STS-121 planning
window:

Testing and analysis are required on the shuttle’s modified
external
tank. The testing will help verify the tank is safe to fly without
the protuberance air load (PAL) foam ramp. The PAL ramp was removed
after a large piece of foam fell from that area during Discovery’s
July 2005 launch. More analysis is needed to decide whether changes
are needed on the tank’s ice frost foam ramps.
Repair work on the shuttle’s robotic arm must be completed.
Technicians on a work platform accidentally bumped the arm last week,
causing a tiny crack. The arm will be removed for repair.

The STS-121 mission will take Shuttle Commander Steve Lindsey and six
crew members to the International Space Station. This is the second
mission in the Return to Flight sequence to evaluate new heat shield
inspection and repair techniques and to deliver supplies and
equipment to the station.

For information about the Space Shuttle Program, the STS-121 mission
and its crew, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle