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NASA says space shuttle repairs not needed

RIA Novosti

17/08/2007 09:18 WASHINGTON, August 17 (RIA Novosti) - There is no need to conduct repair work on the space shuttle Endeavour heat shield during the fourth spacewalk, scheduled for August 18, a NASA spokesman said Friday.

The damage to the heat shield occurred during Endeavour's launch August 8, when a small piece of insulating foam or ice from the shuttle fuel tank struck the spacecraft's underside shortly after liftoff.

The spokesman said that after reviewing data and imagery reports by the Expedition 15 crew, Mission Control Center in Houston decided that the three-inch gash in the shuttle's thermal protection layer did not pose a threat to spacecraft's safety, and that immediate repairs are not necessary.

NASA has been cautious about heat shield damage since the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated shortly before landing in 2003, killing all seven astronauts onboard. The cause of the catastrophe has been attributed to a crack in the heat shield that had not been detected.

Endeavour is now scheduled to undock from the orbital station August 20 and land August 22, NASA said.

The STS-118 mission is the 22nd shuttle flight to the International Space Station (ISS). It continued space station construction by delivering a third starboard truss segment.

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