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Space Shuttles to Stay Grounded

October 11, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 41

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

This year's violent hurricane season has forced NASA to delay the return of the space shuttle fleet to flight. Although Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne did not damage any of the spacecraft or hardware involved with the shuttle, several of NASA's facilities at various centers were impacted--including the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (shown). The agency has been working hard to make the 15 required repairs necessary before the shuttles can fly again. Prior to being hit by four hurricanes, NASA--which has already met five of the requirements--had been on schedule to complete the remaining repairs by the end of the year, making a launch possible in a mid-March to mid-April window. The agency is now assessing the damage to see if it is possible to complete the repairs in time for the launch window that opens in mid-May. With the fleet remaining grounded, trash and other cargo on the International Space Station that would normally have been returned to Earth by the shuttles are starting to build up and cramp the astronauts' living space. The extra cargo includes things like racks holding science experiments to be brought back to Earth and broken and worn-out equipment.


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