HOUSTON, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- NASA engineers investigating a debris shedding problem with space shuttle fuel tanks reportedly found a series of hairline cracks in the same area.
Nine cracks -- two of them visible on the surface -- have been detected along a protective foam ramp on NASA's External Tank 120, space.com reported Tuesday.
The cracks were found at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, officials said during a Tuesday briefing at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
"We're still trying to figure out what this means," said NASA's John Chapman, external tank project manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "I wouldn't consider that a Eureka (moment) or smoking gun at all."
Shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said if everything proceeds as expected, NASA could be ready to launch Discovery next May on STS-121, the agency's second return to flight mission. Hale stressed the external tank work, and not the schedule, is the priority.