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13 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. space officials say they expect to go forward with the launch of the space shuttle "Discovery" later today.
The launch was briefly thrown into doubt Tuesday when a foam and plastic window cover fell from "Discovery" as it sat on the launch pad, damaging heat-resistant thermal tiles near the shuttle's tail.
Officials later said the damage had been repaired and the launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida was expected to take place as scheduled at 3:51 p.m. local time on 12 July, weather conditions permitting.
"Changing out carrier panels for us is something we do on a daily basis. This is a minor repair for us," "Discovery" manager Stephanie Stilson told reporters.
The planned mission to the International Space Station will mark the first shuttle launch since the "Columbia" shuttle disintegrated while flying toward a landing in February 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard.
Investigators ruled that "Columbia" had been damaged by foam insulation that fell from its fuel tank during launch. Since the disaster, engineers have added numerous features to "Discovery" to increase safety.
Space Shuttle Ready To Fly Again