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Space shuttle blastoff damaged launch pad: NASA

The space shuttle Discovery lifts off on May 31, 2008 from Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Discovery shuttle successfully launched Saturday from Kennedy Space Center carrying seven astronauts and the key unit of the Japanese Kibo research module to the International Space Station. AFP PHOTO/Stan Honda.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 2, 2008
Bricks and mortar blew off the US space shuttle's launch pad during its weekend liftoff, without damaging the orbiter but causing concern for future missions, NASA said Monday.

An investigative team was formed to look into the damage and come up with options for the shuttle's next mission in October, deputy shuttle program manager LeRoy Cain told reporters.

The shuttle has two launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, but only one is currently in use while the other is being retrofitted for the next-generation spacecraft under development.

Damage is not uncommon at the launch pad, but never of his magnitude, Cain said.

"We saw that we had some fairly significant damage," Cain said. "We don't have any concerns for the ongoing mission of the vehicle on orbit. It is safe."

"We do have concerns because we're planning to go launch off this pad again of course," he said.

NASA pictures show a big gap in a brick wall of the flame trench on launch pad A following Discovery's liftoff on Saturday, while pieces of debris were scattered all the way to the facility's perimeter fence.

The two launchpads date from the Apollo moon missions era and were modified for shuttle use.

Space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to blast off from launch pad A in October to leave on a much-needed maintenance mission at the Hubble Space Telescope.

Cain said the launch pad could be fixed by then, or NASA could take steps to make launch pad B available for the shuttle.

"I have no reason to believe that we will delay the mission in October," he said.

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Foam chunks in Discovery launch no problem: NASA official
Cape Canaveral, Florida (AFP) May 31, 2008
Five thin pieces of insulating foam broke off the external fuel tank during the launch of the shuttle Discovery Saturday, but they are not believed to have damaged the shuttle, a NASA official said.

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