NASA Thinking Ahead to Keep Up Launch Schedule
News story originally written on February 17, 1999

NASA officials have asked the U. S. Space and Rocket Center museum to return the forward assemblies from two solid rocket boosters. The assemblies were given to the museum in 1988 to be part of a full-size space shuttle exhibit.

Even though the assemblies were designed for repeated use, not all of them are still available. NASA originally purchased 14 left-handed and 14 right-handed assemblies. Two sank to the bottom of the ocean in 1982 when their parachutes failed to open and two were destroyed with the Challenger in 1986. Four more were damaged when they struck the ocean. They are currently being repaired.

It would cost about $300,000 to take the actual assemblies from the museum, prepare them for flight, and construct mockups for the exhibit. Otherwise it would cost between $5 and $10 million to construct new assemblies and would take more than three years.

"We can't just wait until we have a problem and go order some more," said John Chapman, deputy solid rocket booster project manager at Marshall Space Flight Center. "We've got to get out in front of the problem."

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