NASA today delayed by another two months the first space shuttle flight since the Columbia disaster, saying it needs more time to ensure that the fuel tank does not shed dangerous pieces of ice or foam at liftoff.
Discovery is now scheduled for launch no earlier than July 12. The flight had been targeted for late May.
A large chunk of foam insulation from the external fuel tank punched a hole in Columbia's wing that led to the shuttle and crew's demise during re-entry in February 2003. Now, the lingering concern involves the possible buildup of ice on the tank once it's filled with super-cold fuel and the hazard such shards would pose if they came off during the launch and hit the shuttle.
NASA's new administrator, Michael Griffin, announced the delay, saying it was the result of recent launch-debris reviews.