Hurricane Hammers Shuttle Program

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The director of the hurricane-ravaged Kennedy Space Center refused to speculate Tuesday whether the damage will thwart plans to resume shuttle flights next spring, but his words offered little hope of an on-time launch.

Fresh from a helicopter tour of the waterlogged and wind-damaged spaceport, James Kennedy said everything right now is "very much to-be-determined."

"I'm not going to estimate when we might return to flight," he said. "We'll be working with the shuttle program people over the coming weeks to help assess that."

NASA's shuttle fleet has been grounded since last year's Columbia disaster, and the agency hopes to return to flight in March or April with the launch of Discovery.

No shuttles were damaged in any way when Hurricane Frances hit over the weekend. But three critical shuttle buildings sustained heavy damage, with the most destruction at a mammoth assembly building where space shuttles are attached to their booster rockets and external fuel tanks.

Also damaged were the shop where shuttle thermal tiles are made from scratch, and the building that serves as the hub for shuttle computer software.

[Full article @ Wired]
 
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