All systems are go for America's space shuttle fleet and its redesigned solid rocket booster.
The space agency reported Wed-nesday the seals on all eight O-ring joints in the boosters strapped to Discovery's external fuel tank survived the first post-Challenger launch with flying colors.Engineers at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station gave their final OK to the new seals after disassembling nozzles from the burned-out boosters and gaining access to each rocket's "case-to-nozzle" joint.
The other three joints in each re-useable booster were inspected Sunday and Monday and given a clean bill of health.
The right-side booster nozzle was removed Tuesday night, and NASA officials said its nozzle joint survived Discovery's Sept. 29 blastoff in "great" condition. The left-side nozzle joint was inspected Wednesday afternoon, and it too showed no signs of damage.
"We had good joint seals," said Gerald Smith, manager of the booster project at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "The hardware looks great and we're very, very pleased."
The 14-story shuttle boosters consist of four fuel segments bolted together at three O-ring "field" joints, so named because the segments are assembled at the Kennedy Space Center - in the field.
Challenger was destroyed on Jan. 28, 1986, by a field joint failure. Since then, those joints were improved with a third O-ring seal, better insulation and a metal flange called a "capture feature." It locks joint elements firmly together, preventing development of possible paths for leaks.
In the case-to-nozzle joint, a third "wiper O-ring" was added along with 100 bolts that serve the same purpose as the capture feature in the field joints.