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Next space shuttle launch set for next week

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Space shuttle Discovery on Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image Credit: NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL (PTI): NASA will try to launch Discovery to the international space station next week, less than a month after the last shuttle mission.

Senior officials set Tuesday as the launch date following a two-day flight review that ended on Wednesday.

Discovery and its seven-member crew will haul equipment and supplies to the space station, including a new treadmill named after Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert. Earlier this year, the TV comedian tried to get a future space station chamber named after him.

NASA chose Tranquility instead, after the Apollo 11 moon base, and Colbert had to settle for the treadmill.

Much of the discussion during the review focused on the unusually large amount of foam insulation that came off the fuel tank during last month's launch of Endeavour.

NASA conducted a series of tests on Discovery's fuel tank to make sure the foam was attached securely to its midsection, where it peeled off in strips last month.

Another area of concern, where foam wedges cover brackets for pressurization lines, was more complicated to check. Foam came off that area during the last two shuttle launches.

On Wednesday, eight or so engineers proposed further testing and even repairs, which would have bumped Discovery's flight into October. But in the end, managers found Discovery's tank acceptable and decided unanimously to proceed with a Tuesday launch, and no one appealed, said Bill Gerstenmaier, head of space operations.

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