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NASA Ends Weeks of Shuttle Tests, Says Results Will Improve Safety

November 23, 1986|United Press International

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — The shuttle Atlantis was hauled off its launch pad Saturday, and officials say data gathered during six weeks of tests will improve safety and allay some fears about booster rockets.

"I feel personally that the launch team is still intact, the right people are at the consoles and that we're ready to launch a shuttle again when we get the chance," launch director Gene Thomas said.

Mounted atop a rumbling crawler-transporter, Atlantis was rolled off launch pad 39B and returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Another shuttle will not be placed on the pad until the National Aeronautics and Space Administration prepares to launch Discovery on the first post-Challenger shuttle mission, scheduled for Feb. 18, 1988.

Challenger was destroyed in an explosion on Jan. 28, killing its crew of seven.

The highlights of Atlantis' stay on the pad were a practice countdown last Tuesday and emergency astronaut escape drills last Thursday.

But the primary goal for engineers was to conduct a series of safety-related tests, including one on an elaborate new weather protection system.

The weather protection system features a set of sliding metal panels attached to the pad gantry to shield a shuttle's fragile heat tiles from rain and windblown debris.

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