Future of launches of the Space Shuttle will be only made in daylight, says NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe. The Shuttle is operated for NASA by the United Space Alliance, an association of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Every Shuttle launch is photographed in detail from many angles but details of "events" during night launches are not so easy to pick out. NASA is also considering routine EVA inspections of the orbiter in flight and the possibility of fitting each orbiter with hand and foot-holds, to ease EVA inspection work.


Although the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) is focusing on the loss of insulation from the external tank during the launch of STS 107 as the chief supsect in the cause of the orbiter's disintegration on re-entry, investigations have revealed a potential design flaw on the Space Shuttle's booster separation system, dating back to 1979, before any Shuttle had flown.

There is concern that debris shed at booster separation, as attach bolts connecting the booster to the external tank explode, could damage the orbiter. The separated bolt parts are captured in enclosed assemblies on the external tank and the SRBs.

Close inspection of videos of the STS 107 and some previous launches, shows unidentified debris which may have been caught in the jetstream. There is also concern about the design of the 'bolt catchers' themselves. This is not a showstopper yet - but it could be.

Source: Flight Daily News