At this morning’s Stafford-Covey Return to Flight Task Group meeting, NASA has been told they have met – or are in the advanced process of meeting – the Columbia Accident Investigation Board recommendations.
However, “Direct Line Authority” was noted several times, basically handing over all responsibility to NASA on safety issues and unknown outstanding issues.
The Flight Readiness Review (FRR) will give the “absolute” launch date – with the finalisation of reviews, such as debris concerns, coming to a close in the coming days.
The Task Group will meet again on June 20 – with three issues remaining, although they are happy that all recommendations of the CAIB Report have been met, or are in a state of being passed.
Veteran astronauts Thomas Stafford and Richard Covey lead the Task Group and are yet to fully address the show-stopping issue of debris strikes on the Orbiter during launch. The largest concern being from Ice, Frost or Slush – created from the loading of super-cold propellants into the External Tank – breaking off during assent and hitting the Orbiter’s Thermal Protection System.
This proved to be fatal – when foam from the ET hit the left wing of Columbia on STS-107 – leading to super-hot gasses tearing into the Orbiter on re-entry.
Discovery was mated with its new ET (ET-121) yesterday in the Vehicle Assembly Building, ready for roll-out on Sunday or early next week.
Quotes from the meeting will be available within the next 24 hours.